Hurricane Irma may be gone, but days of darkness and devastation are just beginning in Florida.
Residents could go for days without power after the storm uprooted homes, trees and power lines, leaving 4.4 million customers without electricity statewide in simmering temperatures, officials said.
“Temperatures will be around 90 for many, especially central and southern Florida for the next several days,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. “High humidity will make it feel like the low to mid-90s. While it isn’t above normal, it’s certainly warm and humid which is miserable without power.”
Before making landfall in the Florida Keys, the hurricane killed 38 people in the Caribbean islands. At least 17 storm-related deaths have been reported on the US mainland, according to officials.
As Irma left Florida and marched across the southeast this week, it knocked out power in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina. With the sweltering temperatures, restoration of power is crucial, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
“After visiting shelters this week and talking to people who evacuated due to Hurricane Irma, the number one thing I heard from families is that they want their power back on,” Scott said.
Customers who lost electricity on the eastern side of Florida will likely have power restored by this weekend because fewer electrical poles came down in the storm than in other parts of the state, Florida Power & Light said Tuesday.
Customers on the west coast of Florida, where Hurricane Irma made landfall, will likely have power restored by September 22, according to the company.
The company is focusing on first restoring power at schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
“While FPL has invested nearly $3 billion to build a stronger, smarter energy grid, with this powerful of a storm, customers should prepare for potentially prolonged power outages,” the company said.