Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JEA Crews Working Long Hours to Restore Power to Customers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JEA Crews Working Long Hours to Restore Power to Customers

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

On a tree-toppled Arlington street, JEA linemen soared in the air while standing in buckets lifted high by automated arms, reaching the top of utility poles where workers unbolted damaged equipment and replaced it with new fixtures.

Automated arms on other trucks enabled JEA to push leaning utility poles back into ramrod-straight position.

A wooden pole that got snapped in two by Hurricane Irma's wind bursts got pulled from the ground cleanly as a toothpick coming out of a cake. Minutes later, a replacement pole was lowered into a hole and packed into place.

The choreographed sequence is being replayed over and over again as JEA moves its huge restoration campaign into the most grinding phase of the recovery.

How many days it will take to complete the repairs is an open question.

As of Thursday evening, about 60,000 customers, or 13 percent, were still waiting for power so they could run air conditioners, refrigerators, lights and kitchen appliances.

At the peak of the storm, about 280,000 customers, or 60 percent, were without power.

CEO Paul McElroy said the utility needs to see where it stands Friday before giving any time estimates, but the utility has reached the point that as customers call, JEA can tell them when crews will be in their areas to work on fixing the problems.

He said JEA is striving for a pace that is "equal to or better" than the recovery across storm-ravaged Florida.

"Right now, we're progressing better than the rest of the state in terms of our restoration," McElroy said. "We think that's good for our community, but I know it's frustrating for those who are still without power."

The first phase of restoration targeted transmission lines and electric substations that cover large parts of JEA's service territory. Now, the work is moving to more localized areas that still don't have power.

McElroy said JEA brought in 250 more workers to focus on tree-cutting to clear the way for linemen to get to the source of power failures. He said fallen trees are the biggest obstacle that could slow the speed of restoration. …

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