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Power moves: JEA ready to respond after Hurricane Idalia; Use your generator safely

Jul 23, 2023

Brianna Andrews, Reporter, weekend anchor

Francine Frazier, Senior web producer

Richard Nunn, News4JAX Chief Meteorologist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville is under a local state of emergency as Hurricane Idalia approaches Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The city is asking everyone to prepare now before the storm makes landfall.

JEA’s CEO sent out a video Tuesday morning outlining the work crews are doing before the storm to be ready to help with recovery efforts.

This includes going through the city and trimming trees and preparing their trucks.

“Our crews, meanwhile, have stocked their trucks with extra equipment and topped off fuel so they are ready to restore power and resolve water and wastewater issues, as quickly and safely as possible once the storm passes,” JEA CEO Jay Stowe said.

Winds can lead to damaging impacts on the power grid, and not everyone can afford a generator so thousands of residents could be without lights, air conditioning, internet and appliances until power crews can restore electricity.

Stowe said JEA has called in help from other areas to get power restored quickly.

“We also have been in touch with our public power partners and have crews heading our way from both Texas and Missouri to help us restore services after the storm,” Stowe said.

Stowe also emphasized the need for safety during and after the storm.

“Rest assured, we will not stop working until all utility services are restored to our customers,” he said. “Safety is one of our top priorities and we encourage you to make it one of your top priorities, too.”

JEA suspended shutoffs due to nonpayment starting Monday, Aug. 28.

When the power goes out due to the power of Mother Nature, a generator can make life after a storm much more comfortable. However, if used incorrectly it can also kill you. On average, 70 people are killed by generators yearly. In 2020, the leading cause of death from Hurricane Laura was generators.

Before the power goes out, look around and think about the appliances you will need.

Next, add the power requirements of the appliances and devices you will want to use. Check the back and sides for the manufacturer’s label with this info. If you plan on using lamps, add up the wattage of all the light bulbs you will use. To find the total amps you will need, divide watts by volts.

It is always best to leave some room for a power surge or choose a generator that produces more amps than you need.

Those steps will help you decide whether a portable generator will suffice. If your need is greater than a small, portable generator can supply, then you may need a whole-house generator.

The primary hazard to avoid when placing a generator is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from engine exhaust.

The generator should never run in your garage. Even with an open door, the risk of carbon monoxide or fire is too great -- don’t chance it!

Place your generator at least 6 feet away from your home, away from any door or window, with the exhaust facing away from your home.

An open canopy like a carport or a well-secured tarp or quick tent could be options to keep the generator dry while operating.

Avoid electrocution by keeping the generator dry and never operating in rain or standing water. Operate on a dry surface.

Check all connections and extension cords for cracks, frayed plastic of exposed wires and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.

Connect appliances directly into the generator panel by using a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance load.

For your safety, for the safety of your house and the safety of local line workers, never plug the generator into a wall or dryer outlet. This is called “backfeeding” power. Don’t do it.

Appliances can be plugged into the power source as needed. It may be necessary to stagger the operating times for various appliances to prevent overloads. Remember a chilled refrigerator will stay cool for several hours with the door closed.

It’s good practice to give the motor and the generator a spin before it’s really needed. If you can’t remember the last time the oil was changed, change it now. Also, have a quart or two handy to top off the levels between operations

At some point, the fuel in the tank will run out. Use extreme caution when refilling the tank.

Never fill a hot or running generator. Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool to the touch before refueling. The area around the filling spout and tank should be cool enough to touch.

Speaking of fuel, always store fuel in an approved fuel storage can. Store fuel outside of living areas in a locked shed or other protected areas. To guard against accidental fire, do not store fuel in a garage.

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