FPL to make improvements for next major storm

FPL to make improvements for next major storm

Power outages following Hurricane Irma left many people on edge without having power for days and not knowing exactly when it would return, so FPL is looking to make improvements for the next hurricane.

"It was pretty frustrating," said Sandy Cohen, who lives in Sun Valley East near Boynton Beach. "I tried calling FPL, but I didn't get very far. They couldn't give me any time."

FPL can usually estimate when people's power will be restored if there's an outage on a typical day, but the system had a difficult time doing that with 4.4 million of the utility's five million customers out of power.

"The issue for Hurricane Irma was that it was unprecedented," said Chris McGrath, spokesperson for FPL.

FPL now has IBM working on the issue.

"Our operation, the way that we restore power during a major unprecedented hurricane like Irma, is much different than either a smaller storm or day to day operations at FPL, so we're looking to mirror our communications system to match our response to the magnitude of Hurricane Irma," McGrath said.

McGrath said the company's $3 billion investment in infrastructure improvements did pay off in terms of the length of outages.

Power was restored in 18 days after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and 10 days after Hurricane Irma, despite one million more meters being out from Irma, he said.

McGrath said individual customers were out of power for an average of five days back during Hurricane Wilma, but after Irma, the average time an individual was out of power was two days.

"It actually shaved days off the restoration," he said.

More lines are underground now and many poles are concrete or an even stronger form of wood. There are also more poles placed closer together throughout the system.

Even though 12,000 poles snapped from Wilma, only 2,500 broke from Irma, McGrath said.

"We lost just a fraction of poles during Hurricane Irma than compared to Hurricane Wilma despite the fact that Irma was a much stronger storm," he said.

The company plans to invest more into strengthening the system in the future.

McGrath said FPL will also educate property owners about where they should plant trees so they don't end up pulling down power lines.

"I hope that it gets better though for the next one," Cohen said.

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