JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over the past five years, JEA has invested hundreds of millions of dollars hardening its electric, water and sewer systems to ensure they’re more resistant to storm-related disruptions.
Those upgrades could be put to the test late Tuesday through early Wednesday as JEA and other utilities will be tasked with restoring power in case Elsa ends up leaving residents and businesses in the dark.
When it comes to power outages, communities with mature trees tend to be the most vulnerable, which is why the city-owned utility’s crews have spent the past few days working to get ahead of the storm.
“All 2,000-plus of our employees are ready to respond to everything that is needed, and they are ready to respond to power outages in a swift and efficient way,” JEA spokesperson Karen McAllister said.
It’s all hands on deck for JEA. Like everyone else, the utility’s crews are waiting to see what Elsa does and whether the storm brings tropical winds and rainfall to the Jacksonville area.
McAllister said the utility trims trees across its 9,000-square-mile service territory all year long.
“We have been preparing for the last several days over the long holiday weekend. Our crews were out making sure everything was in place, our trucks are fully stocked and fully fueled,” said McAllister.
“We are also moving our big equipment to centralized places and we’ve been testing our drones to make sure we can check our lines when the storm passes,” she added.
When Elsa makes its approach, JEA personnel will be in place to monitor the weather and assess the impact to homes and businesses. Line workers will be in position, waiting for the weather to improve.
McAllister said there are steps residents can take around the house ahead of time.
“If it appears a storm is headed our way and there is an outage, make sure all the appliances are unplugged,” she said. “That way, there is no fire danger. And if there is anybody in the house with special needs, find out what they need now before they experience a power outage.”
JEA CEO Jay Stowe said the utility is working closely with other agencies to restore power if needed.
“We’ve had communication with other agencies for mutual aid to be prepared -- either to call on mutual aid if we need other people to come help us, or if everything goes smoothly here, that we’ll be able to support other areas,” Stowe said.
Florida Power & Light has also activated its emergency response plan for Elsa. The utility has roughly 6,000 personnel ready to respond. They’ll be positioning line crews in centralized locations to ensure a rapid response to any potential outages.