Irma strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane by 2 a.m. Saturday ET and was moving over Cuba’s Camaguey Archipelago, after earlier weakening slightly to a Category 4. “Irma, however, could retain much of its strength”, said Jason Setree, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group.
Current forecasts put nearly the entirety of the Florida peninsula in the path of the storm, which made landfall in the Caribbean with wind speeds of 185 miles per hour.
Irma has killed several people and devastated islands in the Caribbean.
Hurricane Irma knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and businesses in Florida on Sunday, threatening millions more as it crept up the state’s west coast, and full restoration of service could take weeks, local electric utilities said.
“Restoring power through repairs is measured in days, while rebuilding our electric system could be measured in weeks”, Silagy added. “With a storm as powerful as Irma, we want customers to prepare for damage to our infrastructure and potentially prolonged power outages”, states Chris McGrath, FPL’s spokesman.
The last time a major hurricane hit nearby Turkey Point Power Plant, it caused about $90 million in damages but left reactors located along Biscayne Bay untouched.
The Energy Department said late on Thursday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects Turkey Point to close on Friday evening and St. Lucie to shut about 12 hours later, depending on the storm’s path.
FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc, generates enough power for about 1.9 million homes at the Turkey Point and St. Lucie plants, which are both along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, about 20 feet (6 meters) above sea level. He noted that the power plant survived hazardous conditions from Hurricane Jeanne and Francis in 2005 and Wilma a year later.
FPL will not shut down power ahead of the storm for the entire grid.
Other utilities in the Sunshine State said in statements that they had also invested in intelligent, self-healing devices.
The utilities had thousands of workers, some from as far away as California, ready to help restore power once Irma’s high winds pass their service areas. Harvey’s outages were limited to 312,000 customers, of which CenterPoint was responsible for about 109,000, as it quickly lost force after landfall and turned into a tropical storm.