Lessons learned from past hurricanes helped city prepare for Hermine

JEA says it has improved since Frances, Jeanne hit in 2004

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northeast Florida residents saw the outer bands of Category 1 Hurricane Hermine last week, but overall, the damage was minimal despite 13,000 people in the Jacksonville area losing power.

The storm, which was blamed for three deaths across the country and ravaged the Gulf Coast of Florida, brought wind and rain to the Jacksonville area. 

"The team came together. We came together as a community, as a city and we weathered this," Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said. 

Duval County Emergency Management Director Steve Woodard said Tuesday that teamwork made things go smoothly and city officials worked closely with police, firefighters and the utility company JEA. 

"We had been watching the storm for almost two weeks, even before it rolled off of the coast of Africa," Woodard said.

JEA spokesperson Gerri Boyce said about 700 power and water employees worked during Hermine to restore power knocked out by falling trees and limbs. 

"It is better to err on side of caution," Boyce said. "At the height of the storm, we had approximately 13,000 of our customers without electric service. The longest customer without service was 25 hours."

Overall, Boyce said, that's not bad, considering the circumstances. 

In 2004, Hurricane Frances and Jeanne struck Florida just three weeks apart. 

While Frances did not directly hit Jacksonville, the storm knocked out power to about 100,000 customers -- some for as much as a week. Jeanne left about 30,000 customers without power for days.

Boyce said JEA has improved a lot since then and is more storm-ready every year. 

"We look at what did we do well? What did we not do well? And how can we improve it? And that's what we do to make sure that we harden our system," Boyce said. 

Five days after the storm hit, thousands of people along the Gulf Coast and in the Tallahassee area were still without power. 

JEA already has crews helping the local utility companies there and the utility sent even more teams to assist Tuesday. 

According to Gov. Rick Scott's office, 18,293 homes and businesses, including 22 state facilities, were still without power as of early Tuesday evening.

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