Hurricane Matthew swept up the Atlantic Coast this week, leaving widespread flooding, several deaths and more than a million people without power.
For his demeanor and handling of emergency preparation, response and evacuations ahead of the historic storm, many are praising Gov. Rick Scott, including the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA), which represents 34 public power communities across the state.
FMEA members provide electricity to more than 3 million residential and business consumers.
FMEA Executive Director Barry Moline commended Scott’s leadership in the hours leading to Matthew, noting it was his “coordination and cooperation” that proved critical in keeping many Floridians safe and with power.
On Saturday, Scott surveyed the damage over Jacksonville, where hurricane-force winds and storm surge flooded much of downtown, before telling reporters the state was lucky not to have suffered a direct hit.
In a news conference, the governor congratulated emergency personnel, promising that the state and his office will do everything possible to restore utility services to those affected by the storm.
Moline explained how, by working with Scott and the state, his organization was able to find accommodations for a workforce brought in from outside Florida to help restore power.
As of Sunday, 442,000 Floridians remain out of power, far fewer than the 1.1 million customers affected at Matthew’s peak.
“As Florida municipal electric utilities work to restore power to customers across the state,” Moline said in a statement Saturday, “Governor Rick Scott has demonstrated his leadership by securing necessary resources that have enabled our crews to get on the ground and focus on the task at hand.”
Coordinating phone calls with Scott and the utilities affected, Moline said that by Thursday afternoon – as Matthew approached South Florida on its way north – his group organized 300 cots to be sent to JEA, Jacksonville’s community-owned public utility, to house staff and visiting line workers.
“They were delivered in time for the Friday night need to house hundreds of visiting workers over the weekend and into next week,” Moline said.
By Friday, Moline had requested housing in the New Smyrna Beach area for 13 line workers in the areas from Louisiana, raising the need Saturday 42 for visiting Georgia crews.
“The need was immediately met with no hotels available to house visiting line workers,” he added. Without a place for them to stay, Moline said, it would be extremely difficult to restore power.
“This type of assistance, immediately provided, allows the power to be restored faster to Floridians all over the state,” Moline concluded. “We’re grateful to Governor Scott and his team for their support. It’s having a big, positive impact.”