Duke Energy crews restore power, assess damage following fast-moving Tropical Storm Eta

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As Tropical Storm Eta moves offshore over the Atlantic waters, Duke Energy crews are assessing storm damage and restoring power where conditions allow.

Heavy rain, strong winds and storm surge have resulted in outages in several areas. The storm has brought downed trees and power lines, broken poles and other weather-related outages.

More than 2,800 repair workers will be involved with restoration efforts. Duke Energy crews from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and the Carolinas have traveled to the state to assist. This also includes supplemental repair crews from other electric utility companies through the Southeastern Electric Exchange.

As of 3 p.m., approximately 10,000 customers are without power. During this event, 110,000 outages have been restored. We expect to have 95% of customers restored before midnight tonight. Those in the hardest-hit areas may extend into Friday. 

More specific restoration times will be provided later today for customers still without power. In some of the hardest-hit areas, the estimated time will indicate when we expect to have all service restored to that community. Please know that many customers will be back on before then. Duke Energy will provide estimated power restoration times for specific counties and communities as those estimates have been determined – at duke-energy.com/outages/current-outages.

In addition to making repairs, Duke Energy crews are surveying the extent of damage to utility poles and power lines. Damage assessment is an important part of the power restoration process as it helps determine where the company will deploy its workers, equipment and other resources. 

“I want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding as our crews work to safely restore power as quickly as possible, while also adhering to COVID-related safe work practices,” said Jason Cutliffe, Duke Energy’s Florida incident commander. “We know this is a particularly difficult time for our customers to lose power, as many are working from home and attending school remotely due to the pandemic.”

Workers will adhere to CDC recommendations for COVID safe work

During non-pandemic times, restoring power after a storm can be difficult for utility repair crews as travel and work conditions can be affected by high winds, fallen trees and flooding.

Now, in addition to addressing those standard challenges, Duke Energy’s detailed storm response plan has incorporated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recommendations for COVID safe work practices and physical distancing measures to help keep customers and communities safe.

Duke Energy requests that customers remain outside of marked work zones and refrain from approaching repair crews.

Outage alerts and reporting power outages

Customers can sign up to receive outage alerts and ensure contact information is current and communication preferences specified.

Customers who experience a power outage can report it the following ways:

  • Visit duke-energy.com on a desktop computer or mobile device. 
  • Use the Duke Energy mobile app (download the Duke Energy app on your smartphone via Apple Store or Google Play). 
  • Text OUT to 57801 (standard text and data charges may apply).
  • Call Duke Energy’s automated outage-reporting system: 800.228.8485. 

Important safety tips and reminders

Duke Energy encourages customers to have a plan in place if they experience a power outage. Below are tips to help you and your family stay safe.

  • Maintain a plan to move family members – especially those with special needs – to a safe, alternative location in case an extended power outage occurs or evacuation is required. When checking on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
  • If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground. 
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More tips on what to do before, during and after a storm can be found at duke-energy.com/safety-and-preparedness/storm-safety. A checklist serves as a helpful guide, but it's critical before, during and after a storm to follow the instructions and warnings of emergency management officials in your area.

High-water safety reminders

  • People who live along lakes and rivers, and in other low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding, should pay close attention to local emergency management officials, National Weather Service and media for changing weather conditions and rising lake and river levels. 
  • High-water conditions can create navigational hazards, and the public should use caution and adhere to the advice of local emergency management officials before going on area lakes or rivers. 
  • If rising water threatens your home – or if you evacuate your home – turn off your power at the circuit breaker panel or fuse box. 
  • Electric current passes easily through water, so stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires. Don't drive over – and don't stand near – downed power lines. 
  • Downed lines will be hard to see in the rain and can potentially be hidden in standing water. If you encounter large pools of standing water, stop, back up and choose another path. 
  • If your home or business is flooded, Duke Energy cannot reconnect power until the electrical system has been inspected by a licensed electrician. If there is damage, an electrician will need to make repairs and obtain verification from your local building inspection authority before power can be restored.

Power restoration process

Duke Energy focuses on restoring power in a sequence that enables power restoration to public health and safety facilities and to the greatest number of customers as safely and quickly as possible. Click here for information on how Duke Energy restores power.

Tips to protect refrigerated food during power outages

For customers who lose power and have full refrigerators and freezers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.  
  • A refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. If the power will be out for more than four hours, use coolers to keep refrigerated food cold. 
  • A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

The FDA offers additional tips for proper food handling and storage before, during and after a power outage at www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-and-water-safety-during-power-outages-and-floods.

Duke Energy Florida

Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, owns a diverse generation mix of natural gas, coal and renewables, providing about 10,200 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.8 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S. It employs 30,000 people and has an electric generating capacity of 51,000 megawatts through its regulated utilities, and 3,000 megawatts through its nonregulated Duke Energy Renewables unit.

Duke Energy is transforming its customers’ experience, modernizing the energy grid, generating cleaner energy and expanding natural gas infrastructure to create a smarter energy future for the people and communities it serves. The Electric Utilities and Infrastructure unit’s regulated utilities serve approximately 7.7 million retail electric customers in six states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The Gas Utilities and Infrastructure unit distributes natural gas to more than 1.6 million customers in five states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The Duke Energy Renewables unit operates wind and solar generation facilities across the U.S., as well as energy storage and microgrid projects.

Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2020 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list, and Forbes’ 2019 “America’s Best Employers” list. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other materials. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.    

Media Contact: Allison Barker