Power companies trimming trees in case major storm threatens Florida this hurricane season

Hurricane season is here and power companies are getting ready.

Part of the effort is cutting back tree limbs that could come down and leave you in the dark. Some don’t like the way trees look after contractors cut them back, but others say if it keeps the lights on, they can live with it.

As part of its regular trimming schedule, Duke Energy Florida sent a crew of tree contractors to Frank Caldas’ house in St. Pete Beach.

They cut back his oak tree to meet guidelines on how far limbs should be cut back from power lines.

"It looks like a ‘V’ because of the line going through the middle of the tree," said Caldas.

The large cut left in the middle of his oak canopy may not be perfect aesthetically, but it may help keep his lights on when a big storm hits.

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"This is absolutely critical for us in a process we call Storm Hardening," said Ana Gibbs, spokesperson for Duke Energy Florida.

Power company arborists oversee the work of tree contractors. They cut away limbs to prevent fires as well as power outages. They even use helicopters with saws to reach trees that are hard to reach on the ground.

If an outage does occur, Duke uses new self-healing technology to quickly restore power in some cases without having to dispatch linemen.

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The technology reroutes power to reach affected areas through different power lines. If you have a tree that is becoming entangled in power lines, Duke Energy asks that you contact them online or call them at the number printed on the back of your bill.

Gibbs says Duke comes back every three to five years to make sure limbs don’t grow back onto lines.

Caldas says the last time they cut his limbs, the tree filled in and looked better after about six months.

"I feel safer that I’m not going to lose power," he said.

The power company says never try to trim power lines away from a tree yourself because the tree could be energized with electricity. Duke says they analyze some locations to determine if power lines should be installed underground rather than overhead, but they say if something goes wrong with an underground line, it takes much longer to fix than an overhead line.

Gibbs says every cut they make now could prevent a power outage later in what experts predict will be a very busy season with big storms. 

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