Utilities in US Southeast restore power to almost half hit by Irma


Major utilities in Florida - including NextEra Energy Inc's Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy Corp and Emera Inc's Tampa Electric - have mobilized tens of thousands of workers to deal with the outages after Irma landed early Sunday and carved a destructive path up Florida, which has a population of about 20.6 million.

As of 6 a.m., Hurricane Irma still leaves more than half of the Sunshine State - roughly 54 percent - in darkness.

Some Florida utilities, including FPL, warned customers it could take weeks to restore power in the hardest hit areas. "Men in hard hats are attractive!" said one of the women, obviously just joking with the Wisconsin men, but also making it clear that she would like it if they would get the power turned back on at her house.

The crews will help with power restoration efforts. Irma hit southwestern Florida on Sunday morning as a risky Category 4 storm, the second-highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

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Sunday night, 31 utility workers were stationed waiting out the storm in Orlando at Florida Power and Light's staging area. It gradually weakened to a tropical storm and then a tropical depression on Monday. The company has restored power to about 1 million customers so far but CEO Eric Silagy said Monday that "people need to be prepared for some prolonged and extended outages".

Florida outages for Duke Energy Corp, which serves the northern and central parts of the state, held at around 1.2 million, according to the company's website, and Duke's outages in North and SC eased below a peak of 160,000.

In Miami-Dade County, where roads flooded and debris flew, around three-quarters of residents (830,000 out of 1.1 million) are without power as of Monday morning.

At its St. Lucie nuclear plant about 120 miles (190 km) north of Miami, FPL reduced power at Unit 1 because of salt buildup from Irma in the switchyard, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.