• Hurricane Irma: Officials question Duke Energy about remaining 37K local power outages


    SANFORD, Fla. - Patience is wearing thin for the 37,000 Duke Energy customers in Central Florida who awoke Tuesday morning in homes without electricity.

    More than 33,000 local outages remained by Tuesday afternoon.

    The company's Seminole County delegation met at downtown Sanford's Seminole County Services Building to question company officials about why so many customers remain without power more than a week after Hurricane Irma blew through Central Florida.

    Duke Energy had promised to fully restore power to its customers by midnight Sunday, but it later said efforts wouldn't be complete until 11 p.m. Tuesday. The company blamed an IT issue for delays and miscommunication.

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    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

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    State Rep. Bob Cortes, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said he's disappointed that the company hasn't made good on its initial promise.

    "We understand that power restoration after a natural disaster of this magnitude is a Herculean task," Cortes said in a letter to the company. "But Duke Energy's lack of transparency and effective communication about the situation and IT issues is trying its customers' patience and eroding their confidence in Duke's operation."

    But Cortes said during Tuesday's meeting that the blame lies with Irma.

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    Apopka resident Francine Uva said she's been frustrated by the lack of communication.

    "You don't really know if it is going to be on," Uva said. "It's not on as of yet, and they promised."

    Arthur Archer, who also lives in Apopka, said the storm has cost him greatly.

    "My food is gone," he said. "My bank account is disappearing."

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    © 2019 Cox Media Group.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

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    Officials said the original deadline wasn't met because electrical systems in some areas were destroyed and because storm debris has blocked access to power lines, especially in areas hit by tornadoes. Thousands of utility poles, transformers and power lines need replacing, they said.

    Earlier this week, the company's president apologized for the lengthy outage and said that its customers deserve better. She said that IT issues led to inaccurate reports of restorations.

    A Duke Energy representative echoed those sentiments during Tuesday's meeting.

    "I'd like to start with an apology," the spokesman said. "We let our customers down."

    Duke Energy officials said customers in Seminole and Marion counties would have power restored by 11 p.m. Monday. But on Tuesday afternoon, there were still more than 9,000 outages in those counties.

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