Literally sweating it out

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By Rachel Brown Hackney

While many Sarasota County operations were returning to near normalcy by the afternoon of Sept. 14, residents still without power were the most frustrated.

As of 4 p.m. Sept. 14, Florida Power & Light Co. reported that 67,000 customers in the county had no electricity, out of the 218,840 affected by Irma.

The good news was that 151,840 customers once again were enjoying use of the internet and their televisions, among all the other modern conveniences operated by electricity.

FPL continued to post this note on its Power Tracker website: “We estimate we will have restored power to essentially all of our customers along the west coast service territory by the end of day, Sept. 22, with the possible exception of areas impacted by tornadoes, severe flooding and other pockets of severe damage.”

That was no comfort whatsoever to Siesta Key resident Michael Shay and 52 other customers apparently served by the same part of FPL’s grid.

What infuriated Shay was that he had been reporting outages each month since April to FPL. They ranged from one hour in duration to three or four hours, he added. Each time, he learned from the power company’s online reporting system that 53 customers were affected. “The same 53 customers,” he felt sure, he said.

“We’ve had a problem, a consistent problem, that FPL has not addressed, he added.

After filing a formal complaint in August, Shay continued, he learned from a company representative who called him that the matter was being turned over to an FPL engineer and it would be resolved. He never heard another word from the company about it, he said, and then Irma hit.

“Right now, I’m sitting here in the house,” he said, with the temperature in the 80s. He was keeping the windows shut, he continued, for fear that the high humidity would exacerbate his misery.

Still, Shay was left to wonder whether repairs to what he suspects was a single piece of equipment would have meant his power would have been restored before that afternoon.

He and his wife and dog did evacuate the Key, as directed by Sarasota County Emergency Management staff on Sept. 8, and while the power did go out at the home of his host, it came back on within probably 12 hours, he added.

Although he could continue to spend nights at the host’s home, Shay said, he feared leaving his house unoccupied for long stretches. Already, he pointed out, he had seen several suspicious vehicles driving through his neighborhood. He added that he remained wary not only of scam artists, but also opportunists looking to break into unoccupied homes.

“There’s nobody in my complex. It’s a ghost town.”

“I know this is a difficult time for [FPL],” he acknowledged, but he hoped company reps would take him more seriously whenever he actually could reach an FPL employee again, with emphasis on the “whenever.”
Power was finally restored on September 18.

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