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FPL to replace 3,300 power poles this year

FPL line crews works to restore power after Hurricane Nicole in Jensen Beach, FL on November 10, 2022.
Mike Mazur/Mike Mazur
FPL line crews works to restore power after Hurricane Nicole in Jensen Beach, FL on November 10, 2022.

When Hurricane Sally made landfall in Pensacola in 2020, it snapped power poles like toothpicks, left nearly a quarter of a million Northwest Florida residents without electricity, and, in the final tally, caused almost $150 million in damage to the area’s power grid. It took nearly 8,000 workers from 25 states weeks just to get the lights back on.

In the years since Florida Power & Light increased customers’ rates to help recoup some of those costs and harden the region’s grid against future storms. As part of this effort, the company last week was in Navarre, replacing a wooden power pole with a new concrete one built to withstand extreme winds.

The company says it's just one of 3,300 main power poles they plan to replace this year across the region, including many that serve critical community facilities like hospitals and fire stations.

“Navarre Beach is a barrier island," FPL project manager Chad Swails said, "and by hardening the poles now, we get ahead of storm season, and hopefully, in the event of a storm, we decrease restoration time to our customers in the event of outages.”

While no energy grid is fully stormproof, FPL says energy grid enhancements like this one in Navarre Beach will speed restoration efforts when the next storm comes our way and improve day-to-day service reliability.

Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker said the progress was something worth celebrating.

“When you see projects like this, where FPL is proactively working to harden the grid, [it] equals ... our citizens having greater reliability," he said, "especially during storm events.”

FPL says it expects to have strengthened all main power lines throughout Northwest Florida by 2031.

T.S. Strickland is an award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, Entrepreneur and many other publications. Strickland was born and raised in Pensacola's Ferry Pass neighborhood and cut his teeth working as a newspaper reporter in the Ozark Mountains before returning home to work as a government reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. While there, his reporting earned a Gold Medal for Public Service from the Florida Society of News Editors, one of the highest professional awards in the state. In his spare time, he enjoys building software products, attending Pensacola Opera performances with his effervescent partner, Brooke, and advocating for greenway development with the nonprofit he co-founded, The Bluffline.