Utility workers across the Tampa Bay area were preparing Monday to respond to power outages ahead of the storm that is expected to strengthen into Hurricane Idalia.
Duke Energy Florida, which supplies power to most areas of Pinellas and Pasco counties, mobilized about 4,500 power line technicians, vegetation workers, damage assessors and support personnel Monday to respond to outages.
Tampa Electric Co., which services Hillsborough and portions of Pasco County, was bringing in more than 1,000 workers and supplies from other states and staging them outside the storm’s path, said Cherie Jacobs, a spokesperson for the company. The workers are stocking their trucks, sandbagging some areas and placing solar panels into “storm position.”
The company in recent days urged local residents to gather supplies in the event that power is disrupted.
Power restoration crews will work to restore electricity when the storm conditions have dissipated to the point that it is safe for them to do so.
The crews first restore power to public health and safety facilities. They then focus on restoring electric service to the greatest number of customers as possible. That means the priority is to first repair damage to large power lines and infrastructure. Crews may not be immediately visible in neighborhoods.
The National Hurricane Center’s forecast track on Monday had Idalia making landfall in Florida’s “Big Bend” area, north of Tampa Bay, potentially as a Category 4 storm. But the track was not certain and it remains possible that the storm could shift south.
Even if Idalia maintains its current track, Tampa Bay area officials expect local impacts, including power outages.
When Hurricane Ian swept through the state last September, it knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, which sit more than 100 miles north of where the storm made landfall. It took several days for crews to restore power to those who lost it.
In advance of Idalia, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric both offered preparation and safety tips for the storm. The tips include:
• Turn off and unplug nonessential electronic devices. If evacuating for an extended period, switch off your home’s power at the main breaker.
• Wait five to 10 minutes after power is restored to turn on electronics in your home. This puts less strain on the power system.
• Turn refrigerators and freezers to their coldest settings before the storm.
• Gather supplies to use in the event of an outage, including flashlights, batteries, portable chargers, radios and first-aid kits.
• Avoid power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Assume that all lines and any trees or limbs that touch them are energized.
The power companies each maintain outage maps that allow customers to see areas in which power is out and estimated restoration times.
Duke Energy’s outages are viewable at outagemap.duke-energy.com.
Tampa Electric’s outage map is viewable at outage.tecoenergy.com.
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Tampa Bay Times hurricane coverage 2023