Hurricane Irma's Advances Bringing down power to nearly 3,000 in Fort Myers area

Around 9 a.m. Sunday residents along Three Oaks Parkway in south Lee County finally had their first tangible smack from Hurricane Irma when their power went out.

Earlier, as the first winds from Hurricane Irma brushed through the southern tip of Florida power companies supplying energy to the area reported about 3,000 residents how lost their power.

Ximena Hurtado, who lives in the Lakes Community just off Three Oaks near Alico Road, reported via text message that her family, including her husband, his brother, and her daughter, was now without power.

Farther down Three Oaks, in the Rookery Point community in Estero, Len Vanover reported lights flickering and the cable sporadic but that power was still on.

"It's just like a regular storm," he said.

In North Fort Myers, Rhonda GB reported her power went out around 10 a.m.

Karen Ryan, a spokeswoman for the Lee County Electric Cooperative, said about 1,300 residents had been affected as of 7 a.m.

"Most on our south system," she said. LCEC serves areas in Lee and Collier counties from Marco Island and Everglades City to Cape Coral and parts of North Fort Myers.

As of 8 .m. LCEC showed the Naples area with the most outages with 875, 205 in Cape Coral, 95 in North Fort Myers, 90 in Marco Island, 35 in Lehigh Acres and Immokalee, 18 in Sanibel and 2 on Pine Island.

Once Irma's effects have dissipated, LCEC said the order of power priority would be: Buildings housing emergency responders, like fire stations, police stations; City and county emergency operations centers; Area hospitals and shelters, housing those escaping from the storm; LCEC substations, providing power; Residences, especially those areas experiencing the highest outages; The most remote customers, where there aren’t many homes.

FPL was reporting a like number of outages in the service area it overs in Southwest Florida.

Here’s a 9 a.m. update for Florida’s west coast:
Manatee County: Customers: 184,900; Without power: 60; Power restored: 150; Sarasota County: Customers: 263,800; Without power: 350; Power restored: 1,840; De Soto County: Customers: 16,600; Without power: 130; Power restored: 230; Charlotte County; Customers: 114,100; Without power: 230; Power restored: 330; Lee County:  Customers: 259,900; Without power: 1,350; Power restored: 1,760;Collier County: Customers: 210,700; Without power: 3,010; Power restored: 4,020; Monroe County:  Customers: 90; Without power: 90; Power restored: 0

FPL has about 1 million customer accounts, or 2 million people, in Manatee, Sarasota, De Soto, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, and Monroe counties, according to its website.

Radar over South Florida (Photo: National Weather Service)

Company officials estimate about 6 million people, representing 3.4 million customer accounts, will lose power in the storm’s wake. A majority will be on the west coast if Irma continues on her current track.

The company, which serves five million accounts representing 10 million people in 35 counties, expects to perform major restoration efforts on Florida’s east coast and a rebuild of its system on the west coast, which Irma is expected to destroy.

Restoration can take anywhere from hours to days, while a rebuild could takes weeks or more, company representatives said.

The company plans to deploy about 16,000 utility workers from 29 different states to begin restoration efforts once conditions are safe.

Staging areas are shifting west with Irma to be ready to work when the storm passes.

The workers, employed by other utilities companies throughout the U.S., can begin restoration work once winds drop to 35 mph and flood waters recede.

Continue to check for power outage updates.