State, local leaders seek answers from Duke Energy

State Rep. Bob Cortes discusses transparency, timeline

By Mark Lehman - Reporter

SANFORD, Fla. - State and local leaders in Seminole County are demanding answers after thousands of residents were left without power for more than a week following Hurricane Irma.

State Rep. Bob Cortes and other lawmakers met Tuesday with Duke Energy officials to discuss transparency and the power company's timeline for power restoration.

"I'm upset because it's eight days and these folks have been clamoring for power and they have no information," Cortes said.

In the hourlong meeting, a representative for the power company singled out a communication glitch with an automated outage reporting system.

"We've had some confusion (and) some problems with our IT system," Vice President of Government Affairs Chris Flack said.  "It added to the confusion, which added to the frustration, which reduced the amount of patience that people had."

Duke Energy initially released a deadline of Sept. 17 for power to be restored statewide, but that deadline was pushed back to Sept. 18 at 11 p.m for Seminole County.

As of Monday night, Duke Energy reported 9,212 customers in the county were without power.

"We're talking about folks and their livelihoods, so they can continue their regular lives," Cortes said.  "They need to get power restored."

Discussion in the meeting also centered around learning from the impact of the storm and what changes are needed to prevent a future widespread power outage.

"I think we'll have an opportunity to learn a great deal from this storm and it won't just be about the customer interface. It will be about the system," Flack said.

In a previously written letter sent to Duke Energy, Cortes expressed disappointment in the company missing its deadline and brought up concerns about the impact future storms may have on Central Florida.

"What guarantees are you going (to give) that this isn't going to happen again?" Cortes asked.

Duke Energy said power is expected to be restored to the majority of homes in Seminole County by 12 a.m. Wednesday, but service for customers with extensive damage to equipment could take longer to restore.

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