When the day began, more than 100,000 Duke Energy customers in Pinellas and Pasco counties were still without power.
But officials with the investor-owned utility vow to stick by their promise made earlier this week that everyone in those areas will have power restored by midnight Friday.
“I think we’ll have everyone back on by midnight,” Duke spokesman Jeff Baker vowed at a Clearwater news conference Friday afternoon, while carefully noting that there was an exception for those “very small pockets” of people suffering from extensive damage such as having a broken power line down in their neighborhood.
Duke Energy has unleashed 2,006 linemen and women from around the country, some from as far away as Colorado to the west and Canada to the north.
Baker said that the real restoration efforts could not begin in earnest until Tuesday or even Wednesday of this week because most of the crews that were prepared to start work after Hurricane Irma hit were still staged in Southern Georgia or Northern Florida.
Representatives from various branches of the City of Clearwater’s local government were present at the news conference called for by Pinellas U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.
Clearwater Chief of Police Dan Slaughter said that there were only a few traffic intersections still bereft of Duke-juiced power, but were still operable thanks to generators. He also took a crack at those who did not obey the rule of treating the downed traffic signals as a four-way stop.
“Now we did have to deal very early on with a lot of people who apparently got a D in Drivers’ Education.” he quipped.
Slaughter added that the Clearwater PD had actually gone ahead and produced some public service announcements in association with Bay News 9 informing motorists what to do when the traffic signals were out but said ultimately the dept. decided they were not needed to air.
Clearwater Emergency Management Coordinator Jevon Graham also said the city was aware that there were some members of the public who needed to be schooled on how to use a generator. That’s why the department has purchased carbon monoxide detectors, available for the public currently at Stations 45 and 48, batteries included.
“We don’t want to have a situation that others have been having with CO getting into their homes with the generators being either too close to their homes or just inside their homes, which is really not recommended,” Graham noted what should be obvious, but isn’t.
Crist also referenced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement this week that in the wake of the hurricane, households on food stamps (officially known as the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) are now allowed to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods through Sept. 30.