MIAMI — Power outages caused by Hurricane Isaias may begin as early as Saturday in South Florida, according to Florida Power and Light. But restoration efforts may be delayed by COVID-19 protocols at the utility company.
The Category 1 hurricane, which made landfall in the Andros Island of the Bahamas on Saturday morning, may bring tropical-storm-force winds to Miami-Dade County as it passes off the coast Saturday evening, but the chances of strong winds are more likely in Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach than in Miami-Dade.
Those winds may cause trees to topple, knocking down power lines.
"This is a storm which has the potential to knock out power to a significant number of our customers based on what we're seeing with the current track," FPL spokesman Dave Reuter said in a public address Saturday morning.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, FPL has put new measures in place to protect its workforce, like screening for coronavirus symptoms and observing social distance while on duty. Those protocols may delay service to customers, Reuter said.
"These actions may reduce our productivity, resulting in longer restoration times," he said. "We know that being without power is difficult, and we ask customers for their patience."
About 160,000 customers lost power in September 2019 when Hurricane Dorian crept near Florida's coast as a Category 2 storm after battering the Bahamas. No power outages lasted more than 24 hours, FPL said. It took about an hour on average for customers to regain power.
The Juno Beach-based FPL, which holds a virtual monopoly on electricity in South Florida and across half the state, has mobilized a more than 10,000-person crew to handle power restoration in Florida, Reuter said. Nearly 3,000 out-of-state workers from partner utilities were called on to assist in the effort. Workers will be restoring power "in between weather bands," Reuter said, but only if winds in the area stay under 35 mph.
"We want customers to know that we're committed to working around the clock until every single customers' power is restored," Reuter said. "Restoration will follow the path of the storm as it moves its way up the coast. As it passes through a service area, we'll be out as soon as it is safe to do so, and we'll be assessing damage and restoring service."
To keep track of service changes, follow FPL's social media pages or use its interactive outage tracker map.
"We need to get a solid assessment of the full extent of damages before we can provide regional estimates of when power will be restored," Reuter said.
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