Millions of Floridians Still Without Power after Hurricane Irma

Some 5.8 million homes and businesses in Florida and nearby states still had no power on Tuesday after the pummeling from Hurricane Irma, as utility companies scrambled to get the lights back on in one of the biggest power restoration efforts in U.S. history, Reuters reports.

The total number of customers, representing about 12 million people, dipped from a peak of more than 7.4 million customers, or about 15 million people, late on Monday.

Fuel shortages in the state also eased as 37.6 percent of gas stations were without fuel statewide, down from 46 percent Monday evening, according to fuel information service GasBuddy.

Major utilities in Florida, including NextEra Energy Inc’s Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Corp and Emera Inc’s Tampa Electric, have mobilized tens of thousands of workers to deal with the outages after Irma landed early Sunday and carved a destructive path up Florida, which has a population of about 20 million.

FPL, the state’s largest utility, said its outages dipped to around 2.5 million customers by Tuesday evening from a peak of more than 3.6 million on Monday morning, but that was still more than half of its customers.

In total about 4.5 million FPL customers were affected by the storm, with more than 1.7 million having their service restored already, mostly by automated devices.

“We restored power to about 40 percent of the customers impacted by Irma in just one day,” FPL spokesman Rob Gould told a news conference on Tuesday. By comparison, only 4 percent of 3.2 million customer outages following Hurricane Wilma in 2005 were addressed in the same time.

The faster restoration time was due to $3 billion FPL spent on improvements including underground lines, concrete poles and intelligent devices to help restore power, Gould said.

More than 60,000 workers from across the United States and Canada were involved in the restoration efforts, including those from the affected companies and other utilities, said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group.

Some Florida utilities, including FPL, had warned customers it could take weeks to restore power in the hardest hit areas. However, FPL, said on Tuesday that would restore power to eastern Florida by this weekend, and to western Florida by September 22.

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