Utility companies roll out new storm preparedness measures

Big storms have left millions of Floridians without power over the years, but in 2019 the legislature passed a law that requires power companies to start putting lines underground.

Now, power companies are giving us a look at how they're tackling these requirements.

TECO rolled out its new Storm Protection Program Wednesday just ahead of the new Atlantic Hurricane Season. 

"This year we are installing about 80 miles of power lines underground and next year that will grow to 100 miles," says Cherie Jacobs, spokesperson for Tampa Electric Company.

Peoples Gas showed new GPS technology and bar code scanners that can instantly locate gas lines even if a storm obliterates the above-ground landscape as happened in Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and other storms.

Workers also showed off a giant bucket truck that can lift linemen 150 feet into the air to service transmission lines and towers. 

Tampa Electric officials announced a new system allowing customers to report outages by texting 27079. 

Jacobs says it is the fastest way to report outages to TECO’s distribution control center. The control center in East Tampa is mission control for power outages, especially when bad weather is bearing down

"Whether it's a hurricane or a weekend storm, we are there to restore power as safely and efficiently as possible," says Irma Lawrence of Tampa Electric. 

Duke Energy, FP & L, and other power companies must also place more power lines underground. Jacobs says TECO is starting where they’re needed most. 

"Things like what wind zone is it in? What flood zone is it in? What’s the tree canopy in the area? Age of equipment? How did it fare in previous severe weather?"

Along with the new system to report outages, text to 27079, Tampa Electric also has a new website for storm information, visit https://www.tampaelectric.com/stormcenter/.