Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Woodlawn residents blame Progress Energy for damaging incidents

Woodlawn neighbors Evan Jones, left, and Lynn Woolums say troubles began with the power pole to the left. Jones said his losses total $2,000. Woolums tallies his losses at about $3,000.


Woodlawn neighbors Evan Jones, left, and Lynn Woolums say troubles began with the power pole to the left. Jones said his losses total $2,000. Woolums tallies his losses at about $3,000.

Bama Finocchi's daughters were watching Saturday-morning cartoons when they started yelling that the television was exploding. Lynn Woolums was preparing to go to work when things started popping. At Evan Jones' house the lights began to flicker, and some went out.

For each of the Woodlawn neighbors, it was the beginning of an eventful morning that would bring out three fire engines, one ladder truck, one command vehicle, one squad truck and one rescue truck, along with television cable and electric company crews.

In the end, the neighbors said, the electrical problems caused thousands of dollars in damage to household appliances and electronic equipment, including computers.

They blame Progress Energy for what they think was a power surge and filed claims with the utility company to recover their loss.

Progress Energy has rejected the claims. The homeowners have now turned to the Florida Public Service Commission to resolve the case.

Last week, Finocchi recalled the May incident.

"It's Saturday morning just around 9 and not a cloud in the sky. Suddenly there was an explosion in my electrical box, which is in my master bedroom.

My children started screaming that the television was exploding, the dogs started barking, and then the next thing that started happening was that lights started surging, like just super bright, and stayed bright,'' she said.

Finocchi rushed her children outdoors. Minutes later, she and neighbors spotted smoke coming from her attic.

It turned out to be a small fire caused by electrical wires that burned some insulation, said deputy fire marshal Lt. Joel Granata of St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.

For Woolums and Jones, that day's problem was nothing new. They had experienced electrical problems in November and March.

"Again we had a situation where the power upstairs, the lights were flickering and then downstairs, they were completely off," Jones said.

"I went to check in the neighborhood and looked down the block and saw the top power cable had fallen into the Bright House Networks cable. I came back, and I turned off all the circuit breakers in my house, but not before my son realized that something was wrong and there were sparks coming out of the power strip, and the fan accelerated and there were different things happening.''

Woolums said when Progress Energy employees responded to an incident in November, they explained that the problem was caused by connections from a pole behind his house.

"They said we'll switch them out, and then they left. If they fixed it, how come it happened two more times?" he asked.

In March, he said, "Things started popping in the house. … All of a sudden, within 10 or 15 minutes, there were four Progress Energy people there again, and it was the pole across the street. They seemed to know exactly what it was.''

In May, "That's when I went outside and saw the line on fire,'' Woolums said, adding that smoke was coming from his home's main electrical panel.

"That's when I shut everything down. Then Bama (Finocchi) started yelling. I ran next door. The same thing was happening to her. I shut off all her stuff with a broom.''

The deputy fire marshal said the department got three calls in a row that morning from Woodlawn — at 9:11, 9:24 and 9:31. The problem could have been caused by one of several electrical issues, he said, one of which could have been a power surge.

Progress Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the November and March incidents were outages, not surges, and unrelated to what happened that Saturday morning.

"In May, there was an unforeseen equipment failure, and unfortunately that did not meet the standard where we would meet claims,'' she said.

"They are playing word games when, in fact, they need to take some kind of responsibility,'' Woolums said.

An outage "wouldn't have blown all these different appliances all up and down the neighborhood. They are minimizing and using their technical jargon and knowledge of the minutiae of their industry to circumvent their responsibility.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.

Woodlawn residents blame Progress Energy for damaging incidents 09/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 1:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  2. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says


    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  3. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale


    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

  4. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl


    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe


    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]