When a major hurricane charges into an area, it’s not the winds and the rain that make first impact.
Instead, it’s rescue crews. From South Florida and all over the country.
As Floridians greeted hundreds of utility crews and corps of police and fire rescuers from other states last year at this time, preceding and following Hurricane Irma, this is the scenario the Carolinas were seeing Wednesday.
As Hurricane Florence, the “storm of a lifetime,” takes aim at the Carolinas with winds at Category 4 force strength, more than 500 Florida Power & Light employees and contractors were already en route to help restore power to the Carolinas even before it flickers off should Florence arrive in South Carolina as expected.
“This is what we do. When severe weather strikes, the nation’s electric companies work together to get the lights back on,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “Last year, restoration workers from as far away as Canada traveled to Florida to help restore power following Hurricane Irma, and we’re honored to do the same for those in harm’s way.”
The FPL restoration workers, contractors and support staff from South Florida left the company’s Gulfstream service center in Hollywood and began the 700-plus-mile journey in convoys of trucks that left the West Palm Beach Service Plaza on Florida’s Turnpike Tuesday.
They will remain in the Carolinas for as long as their assistance is needed, according to Wade Jollimore, operations lead for FPL.
“We love working at home and we love restoring for our customers, but to be able to travel and to see something new and work with new people and restore for these people who are going to be so heavily impacted — it’s a great feeling,” Jollimore said in a statement.
In addition, an 80-member group from Miami-Dade Fire’s Urban Search and Rescue Team was deployed to Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday ahead of Florence.
“Our mission is to respond to natural and man-made disasters by providing search and rescue support, communications and damage assessment and to coordinate the distribution of relief supplies,” Miami-Dade Fire said in a video posted to Twitter.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to waive weight restrictions for emergency vehicles to that they could get to the Carolinas more rapidly, FPL said.
“In Florida, we always stand ready to help our neighbors during disasters,” Scott said in a statement Tuesday.
About 1,000 crew members from FPL were deployed to the Northeast in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.