(Bloomberg) -- Most Florida residents who lost power when Hurricane Ian smashed its way across the state should have electricity service restored by this weekend -- if their homes are still intact. But islands that no longer have roads connecting them to the mainland may be in the dark for a month.
Florida Power & Light, the biggest utility in the state, plans to restore electricity to 95% of its remaining blacked-out customers by late Friday after Hurricane Ian severely damaged the electrical grid. Duke Energy Florida said it would finish reconnecting service to essentially all of its affected customers by Monday night. And the Lee County Electric Cooperative, which serves the area where Ian made landfall, said 95% of customers in most of its service territory would have electricity no later than Saturday night.
Utilities cautioned, however, that they would not restore power to buildings severely damaged by the storm.
“It’s been 76 hours since Ian, which was a monster storm, left Florida,” FPL Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy said at a news conference Monday morning in Collier County. He stood in front of a room of damaged electric equipment the hurricane filled with sand and patio furniture. “We’re going to be able to get this done faster than I thought.”
Ian knocked out power for 2.6 million homes and businesses after striking Wednesday with 150 mile per hour (241 kilometer) winds. By 4:45 p.m. local time Monday, 556,000 buildings remained without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that tracks blackouts.
In communities closest to Ian’s eye, destruction was so severe that officials warned the power grid would need to be rebuilt rather than repaired. The Lee County cooperative, which reported more than 163,000 customers without power Monday, said it still had no estimate for restoring electricity to Captiva, Pine and Sanibel islands, whose road links to the mainland were severed by the storm. A spokeswoman for the cooperative said Friday that restoring power there could take more than a month.
FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., initially focused on restoring power to critical infrastructure like water treatment centers and emergency responders. Severe destruction in some areas made grid assessment difficult due to obstacles like washed-out roadways and bridges, but FPL used a drone, airboats and even a kayak to evaluate damage to the electrical grid.
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