About 6.5mn homes in Florida, two-thirds of the total, are without power after Hurricane Irma cut a deadly path through the state, officials say.
Parts of Florida could be without electricity for more than a week, as damage from Hurricane Irma will require a complete rebuild of portions of the electricity grid, utility executives said on Monday.
"What we think we'll see on the west coast is a wholesale rebuild of our electric grid," Robert Gould, Florida Power & Light's (FPL) Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, told ABC News. "That will take weeks."
Hurricane Irma slammed the west coast of Florida on Sunday, making landfall first in the Keys and then at Marco Island, 15 miles south of Naples.
Since then, it’s been making its way northward, visiting destruction on the state as it weakens.
FPL has activated 30 staging sites, each a mini-city to support and supply its workers, FPL CEO Eric Silagy said.
“I promise you, we will not stop working until every customer has power,” Silagy said at a press conference Monday at FPL’s command centre.
Silagy said Irma caused the most widespread damage in the company's history. It affected all 35 counties in the utility's territory which is most of the state's Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast south of Tampa.
The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing.
“Until we have a better assessment where the damage is, we won’t be able to tell,” he said
“More than half of the population of Florida is out of power would be my guess,”
He said 19,500 electric workers have been deployed in the restoration effort.
Repairs to Florida’s grid could take weeks to complete, as utility companies warn residents to prepare for heavy damage reports from Irma.
Utilities have invested billions into strengthening the power grid in recent years, but the improvements weren’t enough to resist Irma’s strong winds, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Alongside FPL, Duke Energy reported more than 1.2mn customers were without power and Tampa Electric reported about 328,000 customers in the dark.
About 62% of the state had no power on Monday evening, and nearly a million customers had lost it in Georgia and South Carolina.