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Mississippi, Alabama utilities brace for hurricane

SNL Image

Tropical Storm Gordon nears Florida in a Sept. 3 satellite image taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Source: AP Images

Florida's electric utilities were virtually unaffected by Tropical Storm Gordon's passage over the southern tip of the state, but Mississippi and Alabama are under hurricane warnings as the storm moves through the Gulf of Mexico.

The Sunshine State's four investor-owned utilities, which have a collective 8.5 million customers, saw just over 16,800 outages from the morning of Sept. 3 to the morning of Sept. 4, according to the Florida Public Service Commission. PSC spokeswoman Cindy Muir said in an email that not all of those losses of power can be attributed to Gordon.

Duke Energy Florida LLC spokeswoman Ana Gibbs said in an interview that the 3,166 peak outages it experienced "is a normal day for us ... we didn't have anything extraordinary." Gibbs and others stressed that Gordon is not done affecting Florida, as the National Hurricane Center has placed the state's panhandle under a tropical storm warning.

Gulf Power Co., with service territory stretching from Pensacola, Fla., to just west of Tallahassee, Fla., operates in that designated area and experienced 3,139 peak outages from Sept. 3 to Sept. 4. Spokesman Jeff Rogers said in an 11 a.m. ET email on Sept. 4 that "Right now all is quiet. No outages due to TS Gordon ... On its current track, we're expecting minimal if any outages."

The utility said in a Sept. 4 tweet, posted at 11:20 a.m. ET, that "Weather from Gordon is approaching the east end of our service area now. Residents in Bay County may start seeing dangerous conditions and potential outages this morning."

Gordon made landfall in the southern tip of Florida at around 8:30 a.m. ET on Sept. 3, with Florida Power & Light Co. seeing almost 8,800 peak outages. The utility said in a tweet on the afternoon of Sept. 3 that "FPL crews are responding safely and as quickly as possible to restore power. In areas where sustained winds are greater than 35 mph, customers may experience longer outages until it is safe for crews to restore power."

Tampa Electric Co., whose service territory did not come under a tropical storm warning, experienced just over 1,700 outages from Sept. 3 to Sept. 4, which spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said in an email was not a significant impact to the utility.

Bracing for second strike

Gordon is expected to make landfall with hurricane-force winds in the southern tip of Mississippi, served by Mississippi Power Co., in the evening hours of Sept. 4, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Mississippi Power, like its sister utility Alabama Power Co., said in tweets that they were monitoring the changing weather and mobilizing crews to preparing to respond to the storm.

The National Hurricane Center predicts that Gordon will probably be lowered in intensity once again to a tropical depression when it is in the upper eastern tip of Louisiana before it crosses into Arkansas.

Duke Energy Florida is a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp.; Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Alabama Power are subsidiaries of Southern Co.; FPL is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc.; and Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc.