PENSACOLA, FL – Northwest Florida residents breathed a sigh of relief yesterday afternoon as tropical storm Irma left Florida. The focus now turns to the destruction left behind in parts of the state as well as millions without power.
After ensuring that all Gulf Power customers who experienced outages caused by tropical storm Irma had been restored, more than 150 Gulf Power storm crew personnel left early this morning headed to heavily damaged areas in the Southeast. One team is headed to Tampa, Florida to assist TECO in restoring power to nearly 280,000 customers.
Gulf Power crews could be gone as long as three weeks helping in the massive coordinated effort to rebuild the power grid, and restore power and hope to residents in south Florida.
“Our crews have deployed more than 36 times since 2008,” said Jeff Rogers, Corporate Communications manager for Gulf Power. “We’re happy to be in a position to be able to help our neighbors restore and rebuild in the following days and weeks.”
Since Sunday afternoon, Gulf Power restored power to 13,000 customers — the majority located in Bay County — due mostly to high winds caused by tropical storm Irma.
“Even with Irma’s downgrade to a tropical storm, Irma caused widespread damage across the state and a number of outages here in Northwest Florida,” said Rogers.
The energy provider had predicted the possibility of 20,000 customers losing power across Northwest Florida and points to its investments in its infrastructure as one reason why customers experienced fewer outages. Gulf Power has invested more than $225 million in storm hardening projects across the region.
“With recent and ongoing storm hardening, substation upgrades and upgrading infrastructure using the latest smart grid technologies to reduce power outages, our customers are experiencing fewer outages than in any time in recent history,” said Rogers.
In fact, investments in the power grid since 2010 have improved overall reliability by 20 percent for the utility’s more than 460,000 customers.
The energy company officially activated its Company Emergency Management Center, located at its McCrary Training Center in Pensacola for the first time since being built in 2014. The storm center, which can withstand winds of up to 200 mph, serves as a hub for employees during major storm events, allowing them to coordinate and execute power restoration as quickly as possible.
“We’re thankful this storm had minimal impact on our customers,” said Rogers. “And we’re appreciative of our customers’ support as some of our crews deploy to help those in the hardest hit areas who so desperately need it.”