Thousands of South Florida customers of Florida Power and Light (FPL) are complaining that after years of losing power in storms ranging from mild lightening/thunderstorms to Category 1 Hurricanes like the recent Katrina, FPL has failed to provide substantive remedies to prevent serious and dangerous power outages.
The loss of electrical power to a single home or business can be a devastating and expensive experience. The loss of electrical power to a community, city or county can be a life-threatening emergency and community crisis. Yet, as many South Florida residents and business owners point out, with the exception of new high-end walled communities, power lines continue to be mounted on telephone poles in this area renown for dangerous thunderstorms and frequent tropical storms/hurricanes.
A single thunderstorm lasting an hour can result in a half dozen or more brown outs, or repeated momentary black outs which cause numerous power surges to televisions, audio equipment, home appliances and any computer equipment in the home or business - placing them all at risk of damage. What is FPL's action to remedy this? They offer their customers a high premium monthly insurance to cover such appliance and hardware losses - damage that results from FPL's allegedly substandard power grid.
There is also the issue of prolonged power failures, such as those that occurred after the close encounters with several hurricanes in 2004, and now with Katrina, which hit South Florida as a Category 1 Hurricane, and resulted in over one million outages in South Florida, many lasting over a week before power was restored.
The loss of electrical power has serious consequences, especially if outages are widespread and repeated.
1) Sick people on life support at home often become sicker or even loose their lives because of a prolonged power failure.
2) The typical family will loose several hundred dollars in food stored in the refrigerator or freezer if a failure exceeds 36 hours. Many people end up eating spoiled food, resulting in illness and possibly death.
3) Loss of water treatment due to the power failure can make normally safe water dangerous to drink due to contamination.
4) People with certain health conditions are at increased risk when the heat and humidity goes beyond the level their bodies can handle. This is especially true of the elderly and infirmed.
5) Loss of personal safety when alarm systems, lights, gates and other security systems fail due to lack of power. Loss of power to municipal agencies like the police and fire departments, which are not able to effectively respond to crimes and criminal activity.
6) Loss of power to the traffic light system can result in hundreds, if not thousands of auto accidents and injuries during periods of substantial power loss.
7) Loss of electrical power means a loss of communications in many instances, so people cannot report emergencies; people cannot contact family members and loved ones resulting in incredible stress in what is already a very stressful situation.
8) Millions of dollars in economic losses occur with even a single day's loss of power if enough people are affected. When businesses close, they loose critical revenues and employees go without work - unpaid in most cases. If the power failure lasts long enough, the business can fail, putting employees out of work. The repercussions of this on both the economic and human scale are incalculable.
9) Millions of dollars worth of electronic equipment are damaged and destroyed by repeated power outages, brownouts and the surges that accompany them.
There are also serious physical dangers associated with power loss during thunderstorms and tropical inclement weather. Downed power lines have killed pedestrians and motorists who physically made contact with the power lines or stepped/drove into standing water that was electrically charged by a downed line.
Pole mounted transformers make a magnificent fireworks like display when the insulating fluids and oil in the transformer ignite and explode. Unfortunately, pedestrians, motorists and property owners are all at risk when these transformers explode so dramatically as a result of inclement weather - wind, rain and lightening, all common elements of the subtropical environment of South Florida.
The technology to minimize the impact of sub-tropical weather conditions on the electrical power grid exists. Many South Floridians agree that it is simply ludicrous to repeatedly continue to patch a substandard and antiquated power grid at great expense - still causing FPL customers great discomfort and harm in the process. A ten-year project to put all power lines and transformers underground would cost less in the long run and would substantially reduce and remedy the problems that threaten and plague consumers dealing with power distribution during inclement weather in South Florida. With predictions of increasingly difficult weather patterns in the area, many feel the time for remedies is past due and that measures must be taken now to minimize loss of life, injury and the economic impact of electrical power outages on a large scale.
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