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Southwest Florida Learned Lessons About Gas and Power After Hurricane Irma Hit

Southwest Florida Learned Lessons About Gas and Power After Hurricane Irma Hit
For days after Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida, trees were down, roofs were blown off, and power lines were on houses and businesses. Some people are still rebuilding.
September 10, 2018 08:36 PM

Contributors

Anna Kohls, Chloe Nordquist

For days after Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida, trees were down, roofs were blown off, and power lines were on houses and businesses.

Some people are still rebuilding.

“When I first came home, it looked liked I had been bombed, there was trees everywhere,” Francie Summerall said. “I’ve been out of my house a year September 5th.”

She isn’t the only one.

“There are some people in Everglade City, that their home or their business was just leveled,” Karen Ryan with the Lee County Electric Cooperative said. “So once they build that back up we are able to go out there and give power back to them again.”

LCEC had more than 170,000 customers without power after Hurricane Irma. Florida Power & Light didn’t answer our questions about outages.

“Within three days, we had about 60 to 70 percent of our customers restored,” Ryan said. “Within a week, that was all the way up to 85 to 90 percent restored.”

Emergency facilities got first priority. “The electricity... I think they did all they could,” Summerall said.

Almost seven million people evacuated the state last year during the storm — the largest evacuation in U.S. history.

You can imagine the panic with only two ways to get out of the state, Interstate 75 and Interstate 95.

Gas ran out fast. In fact, it ran out before the hurricane hit, leaving people in risky situations.

Florida ports closed before the hurricane hit, and didn’t open until September 13. That and a limited number of truck drivers to deliver gas meant no gas for almost a week.

With so much chaos from a years ago, everyone learned the lesson that we have to restore electricity and gas sooner, but did we fix the problems?

“You do understand because being without electricity is no fun,” Ryan said.

Crews started putting up cement poles that could withstand the winds and the rain, and not snap in two like the old wooden poles. Workers from out of state came to help.

“Our plan relies on external resources also. So we bring crews in from all over the nation,” Ryan said. “So we incorporated it into our plan to get more of our own to act as crew leaders and they can take those crews around.”

The state Department of Transportation plans for more emergency fuel storage and teaming up with trucking companies to help get gas to South Florida quicker.

Hurricane Irma devastated all of Southwest Florida, no matter where you lived or worked. The storm impacted millions.

Make sure you’re prepared with a generator, extra tanks of gas, food and water before a hurricane hits.

“I know it was a year ago, but it’s still pretty emotional for us,” Ryan said.

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