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Duke Energy promises all Pinellas customers will have power by midnight Friday

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Duke Energy promises all Pinellas County customers will have electricity restored by midnight Friday at the latest.

Speaking at Jordan Park in South St. Petersburg, Duke spokesman Jeff Baker said he is aware that’s still a long time for those already frustrated without power over past two days, but “help is on the way.” That includes 1,000 workers from other states who are joining the effort to restore power to residents in the county.

That includes 1,000 workers from other states who are joining the effort to restore power to residents in the county.

Baker said 1.2 million of the 1.8 million customers Duke serves throughout Florida are without power. Approximately 98,000 of those without power are in St. Petersburg.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman dismissed rumors that Duke isn’t prioritizing specific neighborhoods or areas of the city.

“It is based on life-dependent facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, infrastructure facilities like schools and water treatment plants and residential after that,” he said.

Among those suffering from a lack of power include the mayor and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.

“Our city wasn’t devastated, but our quality of life was certainly disrupted,” Tomalin said. She said the city appreciated questions and comments via social media channels, noting “your questions help determine our response.”

Kriseman said the city’s citizens information center received 4,327 calls, the majority of which were about debris or power. The mayor urged city residents to place debris in their front yard behind the curb, but not on the street. Plant material should be separated from drywall and other storm related debris. He said he wanted to give citizens the time to compile their debris by the end of next week, but only intends to have city personnel come by once to pick it up.

Currently, there are 67 intersections in the city without working signals.

The mayor also acknowledged that a lack of power means people don’t have access to television or the internet, and thus it’s been “challenging” to get information out to the public. To address that issue, he said the city would be creating a “street team” deployed out in the community to get information out to the public.

Lost in all of the intensity of Hurricane Irma (and now its aftermath) is that Kriseman is involved in a highly competitive re-election campaign against former Mayor Rick Baker. The mayor said that, for the time being, his exclusive focus was on the safety of the public and that he wasn’t thinking at all about the race.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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