As of Sunday at 5:45 p.m., more than 2,000 JEA customers were in the dark already the effects of a severe nor’easter blew threw Northeast Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma’s expected approach overnight Sunday or early Monday.
JEA and other utility companies say it’s inevitable more people in Northeast Florida will be without power during the next few days.
“We’re expecting to see widespread, prolonged outages. It’s not going to be a two- three-hour fix,” said JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce. “We’re going to get out there as fast as we can but safety is our priority.”
JEA customers can find real-time outage information here.
Boyce said the Jacksonville utility will also be keeping customers updated regarding widespread outages via email, phone calls and text messages. She urges them to log on to JEA.com before they lose power and make sure the utility has their correct contact information.
Once it’s safe to begin restoring service, Boyce said, crews will start with hospitals and fire and police stations then move on to traffic intersections.
“At intersections you have pharmacies and places like that. Also, if the large intersections are working, we’re not pulling JSO officers off of things they need to be working on because they’re working on directing traffic,” she said.
JEA CEO Paul McElroy said the utility has spent the last year planning for another storm after Hurricane Matthew brushed the First Coast in October of 2016.
“Everybody — all 2,000 JEA employees, as well as the 500 employees we’ve brought in from out of state to work alongside our employees restoring services after the storm — are prepared to go, and their only objective — we have no day jobs — our only job right now is storm restoration. So we are focused completely on restoring power after the storm passes," he said.
McElroy said JEA has brought in a helicopter that will begin assessing damage as soon as the winds die down and it’s safe to fly. The utility also has brought in four additional drone teams to help with damage assessment.
Plus, McElroy said, nearly 600 linemen and 250 tree cutters are standing by with trucks and equipment. And additional pumps and generators are prepped to handle sewer back-ups and overflows.