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Delayed Quote. Delayed  - 12/15 11:00:00 pm
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Irma Leaves More Than 60% of Florida Utility Customers in the Dark

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09/11/2017 | 05:32pm CET
By Erin Ailworth 

More than 6.2 million, or 60%, of utility customers in Florida were without power Monday morning as Irma continued to pass over the upper part of state as a tropical storm, the state's disaster agency said.

Customers of Florida Power & Light Co., a unit of NextEra Energy Inc. and the state's largest investor-owned utility, were the most affected by outages. As of Monday morning, roughly 4.2 million of the company's nearly 5 million customers were without power, according to a company outage map.

At Gulf Power, a Southern Co. unit that serves just over 455,000 in northwest Florida, spokesman Rick DelaHaya said Monday morning that the brunt of Irma was just starting to arrive in that region.

"It's supposed to get really bad here in the next couple of hours, and after that we'll make a decision of where we need to get on the road," he said. "With any storm like this there are going to be some outages."

In the parts of Florida where the weather had started to clear, utilities had crews out beginning to assess the damage wrought by the storm, which hit the state as a hurricane. In advance of Irma, the utilities had called on thousands of repair workers from across the U.S. and had been staging them in areas where the storm was expected to do its worst.

Ana Gibbs, a spokeswoman with Duke Energy Corp., the state's second-largest investor-owned utility, said the company had been given the all clear to start work in the Tampa and Orlando areas. Both took harder-than-expected hits from Irma as the storm's track shift west and then east again. She said customers would likely see trucks passing through their neighborhoods to take stock of the situation before repair crews are sent in.

"They assess, they call back to dispatch and let them know what materials are needed, and that's when you see the bucket trucks roll in, " Ms. Gibbs said. "The plan for today is getting through the damage assessment."

Cherie Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Tampa Electric, a unit of Emera Inc., said her company was in much the same mode. The utility had estimated that up to 500,000 of its customers might lose power. As of late Monday morning, more than 330,000 were going without, according to a company outage map.

"There's damage assessors looking at exactly what we are dealing with -- they are on land and in the air," Ms. Jacobs said. "We also have restoration crews in the field beginning work."

Write to Erin Ailworth at [email protected]

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