JEA CEO Paul McElroy pleaded for customer’s patience as 87,469 JEA customers were still without power Wednesday evening.
At the peak of Irma early this week, 285,000 customers were in the dark, accounting for 62 percent of customers.
McElroy said workers are undertaking the biggest power-restoration in Jacksonville’s history, after the grid sustained serious damage. He said in addition to JEA’s 2000 regular employees, he’s brought in help from other states.
“We increased the electric system distribution workforce by 700 people and we will increase that by another 100 people over the next couple of days,” McElroy told our partner News4Jax. “Their sole purpose is to restore electric services to you, our customers.”
Out-of-state help is coming from as far as Missouri and New Mexico. Most of the help was prepositioned in Jacksonville before the storm. McElroy said workers were deployed to start restoring power at 3 p.m. on Monday when winds subsided.
Related: Current JEA Outage Map
Still, many of those without power are frustrated. Dantae Luhouse and Deborah Lennon were holding up a large, hand-painted sign at the corner of Peach Drive and Beach Boulevard on the Southside Wednesday. It read: “Where is JEA?”
Lennon said she needs electricity because her son is on oxygen.
“My son weighs close to 500 lbs,” Lennon said. “He can’t move without an ambulance to come and get him. We’ve already got enough hospital bills taking care of him. So, we’re using a generator. It’s gone down on us a couple of times so we keep calling and complaining; my family keeps calling and complaining and they’ve done nothing.”
McElroy said 200 poles, 300 transformers and hundreds of miles of wire were damaged during the storm and now need to be replaced.
“We’ve got 1000 people working in dangerous jobs,16 hours a day to restore service to (customers),” McElroy said Wednesday. “I know it’s difficult and I know it’s going to get harder.”
He said in a day or so, the number of outages will be more manageable, and he’ll be able to give a time estimation for those still left without power.
At one point during Hurricane Irma, more than 6.3 million Floridians and 1.3 million Georgia customers were without power. As of noon Wednesday, about three million Florida customers’ power had been restored, and a third of the state remained without power.
The local breakdown of those still without power along the First Coast Wednesday afternoon was as follows:
- Clay County: 57 percent
- Duval County: 21 percent
- Nassau County: 40 percent
- Putnam County: 65 percent
- St. Johns County: 31 percent
News4Jax contributed to this article.