St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Talk of the bay

FPL: Hurricanes' flying debris sure to cause outages

Published October 31, 2005

After getting hit by its seventh hurricane in a little more than a year, Florida Power & Light is facing an inevitable question from customers weary of repeated power outages: Is there anything more the utility can do to minimize the impact of severe storms on its electric system?

Part of the answer appeared to come in July with the release of a Florida Public Service Commission report that questioned the sufficiency of the Juno Beach company's efforts to trim tree branches near power lines. The PSC also raised concerns about the adequacy of FPL's inspections of utility poles.

Even if these efforts had satisfied regulators, such measures wouldn't have prevented power outages during Wilma, when much of the worst damage was inflicted on the company's 469 substations, of which 241 were knocked out by the storm.

During a conference call last week with the media, FPL president Armando Olivera said the company's transmission lines and substations are built to withstand hurricane-force winds. However, he quickly added that they aren't able to take the impact of flying debris, the main factor behind the high number of substations damaged by Wilma.

Olivera stressed there is "no magic bullet" available that will fully protect an electric system from every hurricane-related hazard.

What about placing power lines underground? FPL electrical distribution vice president Geisha Williams said that would be prohibitively expensive.

Johnson estimated that change would cost about $55-billion to $80-billion. "It's just mind-boggling to consider how much it would cost," she said.

[Last modified October 28, 2005, 18:30:05]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters