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Municipal utilities, prepping for Hurriane Dorian, calling in reinforcements

‘These guys come in, they’re storm warriors’

Florida’s 33 public electric utilities have rung the bell and line workers from more than 20 states are heading to Florida ready to join efforts to put Florida back together next week after Hurricane Dorian hits.

That calvary, about 1,500 already committed and growing and heading Florida’s way, will be joining the 6,000 or so people at the municipal utilities in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, Lakeland, Gainesville, Kissimmee, Ocala and 26 smaller cities next week for grueling, long days of restoring power.

“They’re a very dedicated profession. And that is a tough thing because their homes are impacted, their friends, their family, their neighbors are impacted,” said Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association.

“You know, public power, we’ve got these small service territories. For the line workers that are from these local communities, they’re not just restoring power as part of their jobs. They’re restoring power to their homes, to their families, to their neighbors, and the people they’ve grown up with in many cases,” she added.

The Florida Municipal Electric Association is coordinating the call for help through mutual aid agreements within the American Public Power Association. So far, commitments have come from utilities as far away as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New England.

Most of those out-of-state crews initially will be staging outside of Florida, out of harm’s way for themselves, most awaiting a clear moment to get into Florida and get to the municipal utilities that need help. Staging sites already are being arranged in Florida. The first are expected to arrive as early as Sunday in Orlando.

Meanwhile, the 33 public electric utilities in Florida are working full-scale preparations of their own. Zubaly said the the utilities have about 1,000 “line resources” already on staff but that the response to Dorian, as to other major hurricanes, is an all-hands-on-deck time, so a full 6,000 or so employees will be working.

They generally work 16-hour shifts, with eight hours of rest to assure freshness and safety, Zubaly said.

“These guys come in, they’re storm warriors,” she said. “They come in and they just want to get the power back on for their customers…. When those line workers get into those communities all they want to do is get the power back on for those customers as quickly as they can. It’s just what they do and it’s just what we do for our customers.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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