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KUA: restored 38K outages in 75 hours

Posted on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 1:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
If Hurricane Irma knocked out your power, and your provider was Kissimmee Utility Authority, it came back on three days, maximum.
Residents can thank the linemen and utility workers of KUA, and the mutual aid crews from out of state, for their hard work.
And, in kind of a twisted way, thank Hurricane Charley of 2004.
By early Thursday, 75 hours after the whole fleet was able to get out and begin the restoration effort, KUA accounted for all 38,000 customers who lost power, 53 percent of its base, aside from 525 who have structural damage or meter issues that a contractor will have to fix before power can be restored.
In 2004, Charley knocked out service to 100 percent of customers, and Hurricane Jeanne, which came through six weeks later, cut power to 59 percent. Those storms served as a point of reference this time around, KUA spokesperson Chris Gent said
“The difference from 2004 was that, since Charley, a lot of lessons have been learned,” he said. “Over 70 percent of our system was upgraded for high winds. The wooden poles that came down were replaced by concrete and steel ones.”
With about a week to watch the storm and prepare, KUA had ample time to make a plan and get mutual aid crews from places such as Indiana, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin in place to hit the ground running. Those visiting crews of about 150 workers supplemented the 45 KUA workers. A few of them were able to get out Sunday as Irma stalked northward to take care of early issues, but pulled them in during the worst of the weather until Monday morning.
“You just can’t have guys up in bucket trucks in those winds,” Gent said.
Having to move trees and deal with flooding slowed some crews down, but for the benefit of KUA customers, total restoration took just three days, helped by crews taking digital assessments on tablets and other technology.
“We appreciate the patience of our customers and are grateful for our employees and mutual aid crews who worked tirelessly during our 75-hour restoration effort,” said KUA president and general manager Jim Welsh. “Together, we weathered the storm.”
KUA released its line crews on Aug. 14, but kept tree trimmers around to make sure no new limbs fell on wires. Crews were then sent to Orange County to assist Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) with power restoration, where hundreds of thousands lost power, and still didn’t have it back by late in the week.
“We sent a rotation of a couple of crews,” Gent said. “We often send crews states away to help with their outages, but the good thing about this is they can work a shift, then come back to their own home and we can then send a fresh crew.”
Customers who cannot safely receive power include those who have experienced electrical damage to their home, such as to their “weather head” or meter base, or customers whose dwellings were red-tagged as uninhabitable because of damage or flooding. These customers should contact a licensed electrician to make the necessary repairs. Customers should contact KUA at 407-933-9800 once repairs have been made to have service restored.