Bucket list: Lenny Curry talks power restoration

Curry JEA

The visual for television cameras was vivid: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry up in a bucket truck, on the scene of a JEA restoration.

But what can’t be seen is worth noting as well: crews from all over the country, many of them responding to Jacksonville’s plight as seen on television news, coursing in to help with power restoration and vegetation removal.

That latter detail is worth noting: multiple crews in the field have described Irma restoration as more complicated than Matthew, with more time intensive jobs such as the one Curry visited in Arlington Thursday because of trees impacting lines, transformers, and other equipment.

JEA’s Mike Hightower said that some resources were on standby as an insurance policy; but with this unusual storm, JEA took some days to get up to its current level: 1,050 in the field, and 100 more coming.

Hightower noted that Gov. Rick Scott has been calling, asking what resources are needed; this is a scene seen throughout the Florida peninsula.

Meanwhile, restoration is moving along. All mainline feeders have been restored, allowing for work down the line. A foreman’s analogy: those feeders are the source, feeding smaller tributaries.

Power restoration is exacting and time-intensive, especially with men and women — many from other states, such as the mutual aide crews from South Carolina on this job — pulling 17 hour shifts.

“Crews are working their butts off,” Curry said once safely on the ground.

Curry “never questioned” their dedication to the job, he added, and was in Arlington to show “support” for the work they are doing.

Curry is still concerned about the lack of communication to customers regarding restoration.

“Customers need to know,” he said.

However, the press shop — a smaller operation than Florida Power and Light and others have — has been increasingly responsive to pressure from City Council and the Mayor, holding multiple briefings on Wednesday and Thursday to ensure that the surprisingly esoteric narrative of power restoration is told as experienced by those in the industry.

Curry was not interested in addressing his thoughts on CEO Paul McElroy, telling assembled press that he’d rather “stick where we are” and discuss restoration on the ground rather than the c-suite.

And on the ground, restoration is going well.

One worker from South Carolina — a veteran of this kind of work — said that this power restoration is “about as organized as it gets.”

Numbers as of 11:40 a.m.: 73,000 customers are out of power, down from 316,000 at peak.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes for the New York Post and National Review also, with previous work in the American Conservative and Washington Times and a 15+ year run as a columnist in Folio Weekly. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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