Hurricane Irma made history in September 2017 as one of the strongest hurricanes on record in the Atlantic Basin, and the most destructive storm to ever hit Duke Energy’s Florida service area.
The peak number of power outages occurred Sept. 11 when more than 1.3 million of Duke Energy’s 1.8 million Florida customers – almost 75 percent – lost power.
Damage to Duke Energy’s electrical distribution system was extensive and widespread. In some areas, the company had to rebuild the entire power distribution system.
The company replaced nearly 2,000 damaged power poles and more than 1,100 transformers – and inspected, repaired or replaced more than 1,000 miles of damaged power lines.
In addition, 124 high-voltage transmission lines and 71 substations needed major repairs.
The storm required a massive response. Duke Energy mobilized a small army of more than 12,000 line workers, tree professionals, damage assessors and support staff who came to Florida from 25 states and Canada.
The company restored power to more than 75 percent of its customers in three days – and 99 percent in eight days.
Duke Energy also learned valuable lessons to apply to future large storms.
For example, the company is improving its modeling to better integrate damage assessments from field workers in order to give customers more accurate estimated power restoration times.
The company also is strengthening its power outage management system that provides outage information to customers via phone, text and online maps.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy will invest $3.4 billion over the next 10 years to further strengthen its Florida energy grid. One example: the company will move about 1,250 miles of its most outage-prone overhead power lines underground.
The company also is investing in wireless sensing devices and other technologies to create an intelligent electricity delivery system – a “smart grid” that reduces the number and length of power outages.