JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Tropical Storm Elsa prepared to make landfall Wednesday morning her outer bands were already lashing Northeast Florida’s inland counties, triggering tornado warnings in several areas.
Besides the potential for flooding because the area is already saturated, one of the biggest threats from Elsa is the potential for power outages from downed trees or other storm-related issues.
If you experience a power outage and you’re a JEA customer, you can report it at jea.com or by calling 665-6000.
JEA CEO Jay Stowe told The Morning Show on Wednesday that all reported outages will be addressed, but there’s an order to how JEA restores services, so customers might need to be patient.
“We focus on critical infrastructure areas -- hospitals, wastewater facilities -- to keep the foundational services moving for our customers. After that we move through the largest areas where we can turn on the most people the most quickly, and then we move to smaller areas,” Stowe said. “Once you call in and report the outage, then it’s in our system, and we will respond as quickly as we can. We ask for patience as we work through this.”
As of Wednesday morning, JEA had not requested mutual aid from other agencies, but Stowe said they’re prepared to do that if the storm’s effects are worse than they’re anticipating.
“This storm seems to have weakened a little bit, but we’re prepared to respond as quickly as we can so that we keep our employees safe and customers safe,” Stowe said.
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.
“Sometimes people think of us as the electric company, but we serve the foundational services for the community, and we’ve spent some time over the last few years hardening the water and wastewater system as well and we’ll continue to do that,” Stowe said.
He added that JEA prepares for storms year-round, including by cutting back trees that might affect power lines. JEA spokesperson Karen McAllister said the utility trims trees across its 9,000-square-mile service territory all year long.
JEA personnel will be in place to monitor the weather Wednesday 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.”
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.