CAPE CORAL, Fla. (WBBH) — There have already been power outages reported in southwest Florida ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival, and more outages are expected as the storm barrels through.
NBC2 spoke with the Lee County Electric Cooperative and has advice for if you do lose power.
LCEC spokesperson Karen Ryan said a myth that circulates on social media before every large storm is that they will manually shut off power before the worst weather hits. That’s simply not true.
“Some people may think that you would turn it off so it wouldn’t damage equipment or damage facilities, but the system is built to withstand a storm, so we will let it run its course,” Ryan explained. “With Irma, we had many parts of our territory that never lost power. So we would not want to turn it off and then have to go back and turn it back on.”
If you do lose power, the main question is: when will it come back on? FPL and LCEC have very specific ways to handle restoration efforts.
“Once the damage is assessed, we will restore the main circuits. That gets the hospitals, law enforcement agencies, grocery stores. All of the essential services that people need to get back to normal life. That will get them restored. Then we go to the areas where the most customers are out, and we can get them back on,” Ryan explained. “Be patient. On our website, there will be updates at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. that will advise how many customers are still without power and customers will know that we have crews working in the areas to restore power.”
There is a strong possibility some power lines will come down as Ian blows through. LCEC warns to be very careful around a downed wire.
“Assume that it’s energized and steer clear of it. We will have crews out there patrolling. And if they see a downed wire, then they will be able to take care of it. Call and report it, or report it on your smart hub if you can. But definitely always assume that they are energized,” Ryan said.
If you do lose power and use a generator, LCEC said it’s critical that you use it carefully.
“If they don’t connect their generator correctly, it can back feed into the power lines, and then it can injure or even cause a fatality with workers,” Ryan said. “So make sure that their generator is not plugged into their main breaker panel unless they have had that arranged by an electrician.”
LCEC also warns against overloading generators, and be smart about where you store it.
“Make sure the generator is not inside, not in the garage. It needs to be a dry, well-ventilated area so that the fumes don’t come into the home and make people sick or, also, it can be fatal,” Ryan warned.
Your Food & Refrigerator
What about your refrigerator and all the food you have inside it?
“Open them the least number of times you can because they are cold already. If you keep them closed, everything will stay cool for the longest time,” Ryan explained.
“Right now, fill your refrigerator. Maybe not with food, because there is a chance if you lose power, you’re gonna lose your food,” she continued. “But use plastic jugs, use plastic bags, and create ice in your freezer so that it will last longer and keep the refrigerator colder on the other side also.”
You can also fill a cooler with ice packs and store food in there once you do lose power.
There are also concerns with plumbing when the power goes out. Can you take a shower? Use the sink? Flush your toilet?
“Yes and no. If you are on a well system, you will require electricity to run that well, so you will not be able to flush, and you will not be able to take showers because your well won’t be able to circulate the water,” Ryan explained. “If they’re not on a well, unless water service is impacted, they will have water.”
Ryan offered some additional advice to those who anticipate not being able to use water.
“Sanitize the bathtub, fill it with water (ahead of time) so that they have water for that. And they can use that for flushing by manually pouring water into the tank,” she advised.
Another concern is being able to see in your home if your lights go out. LCEC warns against using candles during an outage.
“A candle for an outage is not a good idea because people fall asleep, children are playing, there’s pets. It’s not a good idea,” Ryan explained. “In today’s day and age, there are so many other options. I actually had a power outage the other night. I went outside, got all my solar yard lights, came and put them in a little bucket and it lit up my whole living room.”
You should also have battery-operated flashlights and have stocked up on batteries in case your power does get cut.
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