March 22 power outage on north Siesta Key still under investigation, FPL reports

436 customers affected

Vehicles are backed up as an FPL crew works on an underground power line project on Higel Avenue on March 11, 2021. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Florida Power & Light Co. is still investigating an outage reported on north Siesta Key on March 22, The Sarasota News Leader learned this week from Kamrel J. Eppinger, senior communications strategist in FPL’s Marketing & Communications Division.

A resident who notified the News Leader about the incident — who declined to be identified — learned after reporting the outage that 436 customers had been affected.

The outage, which occurred in the vicinity of the Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue intersection, began at 12:34 p.m., FPL’s Power Outage Alert system said. The restoration of service was anticipated by 2 p.m., the system added.

The resident told the News Leader that power was back on by 2:10 p.m. that day.

The weather was clear, the resident added, with almost no wind. However, the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport National Weather Service station reported precipitation in the area on March 21, the day before the outage.

In March 2021, as the News Leader reported, FPL created what a Sarasota County staff member characterized to the publication as a “huge backflow of traffic on the north end of the island” while one of its crews was working on a Storm Secure Underground Pilot Program project.

FPL completed two of the pilot projects in that area in April 2021, replacing overhead power lines with more reliable underground lines to serve a total of 35 customers, FPL spokesperson Marshall Hastings told the News Leader at that time.

On March 27, WINK reported that FPL was installing more underground power lines in Charlotte County, “where several communities were without power for days leading into weeks and months” in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

FPL Senior Project Manager McKenzie Herron told WINK that “underground powerlines have more longevity and sustainability than overhead lines.”

Nonetheless, FPL explains on a webpage, “Water and electricity don’t mix, so in the event of flooding, our crews need to wait until water recedes and it is safe to restore power.”

The News Leader was unable to determine, prior to its deadline for publication of this issue, exactly where underground lines have been installed on the northern portion of Siesta Key. Additionally, the News Leader was unable to get a clarification from Eppinger, the senior communications strategist for FPL, whether underground or overhead lines were involved with the March 22 outage.