Crews gather at FPL processing site in Lake City as Hurricane Ian threatens Florida

Groups are on standby to be sent out to communities that could be hit hardest by storm

Florida Power & Light is one of many companies preparing for power outages from Hurricane Ian. The utility covers more than 4 million customers throughout the state. News4Jax Reporter Aaron Farrar joins us live from one of its processing sites in Lake City.

LAKE CITY, Fla. – As Hurricane Ian threatens to affect parts of Florida later this week, crews are forming plans of how they plan to help in the aftermath.

Florida Power & Light is ready to assist different communities in the state.

Hundreds of crews from 27 different states were gathered at an FPL processing site in Lake City on Monday morning to learn where they’re going to go in Florida to help out those who may lose power from the hurricane. The workers and trucks were all on standby to be sent out to communities that could be hit hardest by Ian.

Once they arrived, the crews watched safety videos to learn what to expect during their response. After that, all of the workers will be going into smaller structures, which are called sea forts, where they will be learning what their assignments are, who they will be going with, where in the state they’ll be going and potentially how long they will be staying for the restoration process. They will then head to specific locations throughout the state called staging sites before being sent to areas that Ian goes through.

David Diez is the processing site’s manager who is responsible for outlining which staging site these crews will go to. Right now, they are focusing on Southwest Florida and the western part of the state as initial staging areas, but that may change depending on Hurricane Ian’s path.

“One of the things we look out for is downed powerlines,” Diez said. “We ask our customers to stay away from powerlines, report power lines. That will enable us to get out there quickly to restore power to our customers.”

FPL spokesperson Marshall Hastings said these crews must be ready for anything.

“They can deal with flooding, they can deal with vegetation,” Hastings said. “And vegetation is the leading cause of outages during severe weather, whether that is a hurricane or some of the torrential rains that we get in Florida in the afternoons.”

Hastings said the crews may use equipment from transformers to pulls and wires to restore any power that may be lost during the hurricane.

“When you get a lot of rain, it can saturate the ground and then from there when you come in and you get a 110 mph wind that knocks a tree over into a powerline. Additionally, that wind can take branches, palm fronds, and those can go into the energy grid, as well,” Hastings said.

As FPL serves around 12 million customers in the Sunshine State, workers are encouraging people to familiarize themselves with whatever emergency plan they have in place for their individual household.

“It is not really the time for them to trim vegetation because really at this point when the debris pick ups are no longer happening, that can actually become very dangerous for not only customers and crews, but for the energy grid, as well,” Hastings said. “Those palm fronds that we cut off of trees in your yard, or if you’re bringing anything around your yard, that can actually become projectiles that can hit a house, they can hit a car, that can hit our power lines.”

These crews are heading to their assigned destinations Monday afternoon and are prepared to stay for however long needed, possibly heading to other affected areas.

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