Power was being restored to the Tampa Bay area on Thursday after Hurricane Ian caused more than a half-million outages across Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
The total number of outages in the region reached about 508,000 just before 5 a.m. That included about 291,000 in areas covered by Tampa Electric Co., which is roughly 36% of the company’s customers. Duke Energy outages in Pinellas County reached about 190,000, with another 25,000 in Pasco County. The totals were about 34% of the company’s customers in Pinellas County and 16% of its customers in Pasco.
By the evening, about 30% of those without power in the Tampa Bay area had it restored.
As of 7:45 p.m. Thursday, the number of Duke customers without power in Pinellas County stood around 145,000; in Pasco there were roughly 3,500 without power. Tampa Electric reported just under 203,000 customers without power in their coverage area, which includes Hillsborough County. The numbers fluctuated throughout the day as evacuated residents returned to their homes.
Tampa Electric CEO Archie Collins told reporters in a midday news conference he thinks “it’s going to be at least a couple of days” before the utility can restore power to all customers reporting outages.
“We know how inconvenient it is when the power is out,” he said. “We take our obligation to our customers really, really seriously, especially at a time like this. And so we are moving with urgency to ensure that we get the power back.”
Local power crews working with out-of-state utilities assembled early Thursday to assess damage and restore power.
Duke Energy issued a text message to customers Thursday afternoon, which said they expected to have an estimate later in the evening for when power would be restored. The storm brought down trees, power lines and poles throughout the state.
The company’s restoration process focuses first on vital public health and safety facilities, like hospitals, police and fire stations, water treatment and pumping stations.
Workers may not be visible in impacted areas because the priority is to repair large powers lines and areas with critical infrastructure, said Ana Gibbs, a spokesperson for Duke Energy. She noted that after Hurricane Irma in 2017, the company was able to restore power to 1 million customers in about three days. Their territory extends from Highlands County in the central portion of the state just south of Polk County, and north to the Georgia state line.
At least 2.7 million customers were without power statewide as of midday Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us.
Times Staff Writer Sam Ogozalek contributed to this report.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane coverage
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.