Lawmakers Grappling Lessons Learned From Hurricane Irma

From Power Outages To Fuel Shortages
Posted at 6:43 PM, Sep 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-20 18:43:24-04

Wether you're talking about putting all the power lines below ground or setting up a massive fuel reserve somewhere in central Florida, the answers to the problem of a major hurricane hitting a state with 20 million people  are not so simple.

Phil Leckey lost power for a full week after Irma.

"You could come out and look at the homes and everyone had power except me," he says

He was the only one in the dark and the only one with power lines below ground

"A branch fell on the line fuse back there, blew the transformer out," he says.

TECO says despite popular perception, below ground power lines are not fool proof.

"Underground lines are susceptible to flooding and saltwater intrusion. And when there is an issue on an underground line it takes longer to find and longer to fix," says TECO Spokesperson Cherie Jacobs. 

But after 13 million Floridians were left without power in Irma's wake, state lawmakers are now considering the pricey prospect of burying Florida's power lines and they're also thinking about setting up gas reserves, after the mass evacuation left fuel pumps dry.

But officials with the Port of Tampa say they never ran out of fuel, that it was more of a distribution challenge; because it wasn't safe to have the tankers on the road during the storm. And while they say a fuel reserve may not be a bad idea, it may not be effective when you have millions of people leaving the state all at once and making a run on gas.

Fuel experts say it's not clear how or where the reserve tanks would be built and who would pay for it.

Something else to keep in mind about below ground power lines: even if you have underground service at your home, at some point that service is connected to something above ground, wether it's a substation or other transmission lines.

And if there is an issue in those areas, that's going to affect your power.