By Garth A. Rose
Hurricane Irma’s passage through South Florida on Sunday, September 10 left relatively little damage to life and property. It, however, resulted in approximately two-thirds of the region in darkness and heat.
The common conversation and social media messages on Monday into Friday went like this, “Are you safe after the hurricane?” “Yes, I am safe, very little damage, but I have no electricity at the house.”
It was the exception to find homes that had electricity after the storm. Residents began losing electricity as early as the evening of Friday, September 8, evening when the first of the hurricane’s outer bands reached South Florida.
At 6 pm on that Friday, 57,170 homes and businesses in Miami-Dade lost power according to Florida, Power and Light. In Broward, the outages affected 25, 890 homes and businesses, and in Palm Beach County 3,260. On Saturday, as the winds picked up, the outages increased. Steadily, Irma plucked the lights out of South Florida homes and businesses as the real impact was felt all Sunday.
By Sunday night over 900,000 of the 1.1 million customers in Miami-Dade lost power; over 600,000 of the 933,300 in Broward and some 400,00 of 739,000 in Palm Beach County.
Patrick Phillips, a Caribbean-American resident in West Kendall, said he had “outage blips” about three times on Saturday, but the power went for good at 6:40 am Sunday morning, “Just as Irma began to really rattle the shutters covering my windows and doors.” Up to late Tuesday evening power had not been restored to Phillips’ house. “It’s weird because friends and relatives as close as a mile from my house had their lights restored.”
Being without power in South Florida is a very serious disadvantage. When one’s home loses electricity they lose air condition, the ability to cook, unless they have a portable stove operated by coal, kerosene or gas; hot water to bathe; cable TV; and Internet.
“The loss of power proved the importance of stocking up on C and D-size batteries before a hurricane,” said Liddy Simone of North Miami. “I was able to power lanterns, portable radio and even a portable TV with batteries on hand.”
She, like other residents said, “The house became so hot, especially with the doors and windows shuttered, I didn’t mind having cold showers at all. It was just like living in Jamaica back in the 1960s when few homes had water heaters.”
Serious family time
The Davis family in Miramar said the power outage, with its obvious inconveniences, allowed “for some serious family time.” Matriarch of the family, Elizabeth, said “throughout the darkness and heat of Sunday and Monday the family passed time playing board games, like Ludo and Checkers, and snacking on corn beef and hard-dough bread sandwiches.”
But for some residents, the lack of electricity was a real test of patience.
Plantation’s Frank Caesar’s mother is very sick, and not doing well in the discomfort of a house without electrical power.
“This is damn nonsense,” Caesar said. ”This wasn’t a hurricane that hit us. We experienced a Tropical Storm. FPL has been raising its rates annually claiming they’re improving its services. But, here we have more than half of South Florida without power. What improvements they did to prevent these outages?”
Full restoration expected
On Tuesday, through Twitter, FPL estimated it will have electricity restored to all customers in South Florida by the end of this weekend. The power company said a workforce of nearly 19,500 was working around the clock to restore electricity to all customers. Workers from utility companies throughout the US traveled to Florida to help restore power. An FPL worker in West Kendall told CNW, that the reason for widespread outage was “simply due to the unusual breadth of the storm, which impacted almost all our customers in the state at around the same time.”
FPL indicated some 6.56 million customers throughout Florida lost power, with more than one million in Miami-Dade County.