Gulf Power Company

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

It began as the annual hurricane drill by Gulf Power Company Wednesday morning. But participants were thrown a curveball that a major league pitcher would have been proud of.

The original scenario: Hurricane Irma-2, a Category-3 storm, is bearing down on the Gulf Coast.

“When we got into the briefing room, we found out that the hurricane had made a [sic] easterly turn and was going out into the Atlantic,” said Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers. “However, at four a.m. this morning, as part of the drill, we had a cyberattack. And so everyone had to shift gears.”

Beginning in April, Gulf Power Company’s 460,000 customers will get a break in their electric bills.

Approved this week by the Florida Public Service Commission, the $103 million reduction comes after Congress and the Trump administration passed a tax cut package in December, which includes reducing the federal corporate income-tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Gulf Power Company

Gulf Power Company will spend $83 million over five years, to upgrade its electricity grid in downtown Pensacola.

The project is part of an overall, $225 million makeover across the utility’s 460,000 customer service area. According to spokesman Jeff Rogers, the current system is well beyond retirement age.

“While there’s a very sophisticated underground network in downtown Pensacola, parts of it are 70 years gold,” said Rogers. “They’ve been well maintained and updated, but it is time for a complete overhaul.”

  Round two of frigid weather in the Florida Panhandle closely resembles that from a couple of weeks ago. But there is some light, and warmth, at the end of the tunnel.

Precipitation from the southernmost reaches of Winter Storm Inga led to a number of closings in northwest Florida the past couple of days: schools, roads, bridges and overpasses. Meteorologist Jeff Huffman at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network says the silver lining is that the rest of the winter mix is tracking to the north and east.

Gulf Power Company

Some Gulf Power Company customers may have had their personal data exposed through a possible glitch at a third-party vendor.

Jeff Rogers at the utility says the data breach – detected by the firm TIO Networks -- may have affected customers who paid their bills by check at a local kiosk.

TIO was acquired by PayPal earlier this year.

Gulf Power Company

As the remnants of Irma dissipate from Tennessee to the Carolinas, work is underway to restore power to 15 million people in parts of south Florida hit by the former Category-5 Hurricane. That includes help from the Panhandle.

More than 150 Gulf Power storm crew left Pensacola and Panama City early Tuesday morning for heavily damaged areas, after power was restored to 13,000 customers in Bay County that was knocked out by Tropical Storm Irma’s high winds.

noaa.gov

Scattered power outages, along with downed tree branches and other debris, were left behind when a storm front moved through northwest Florida late Sunday night and early Monday morning.

A cold front came through from the west on Sunday, bringing showers and thunderstorms;  some packing heavy rain and vivid lightning. Wind gusts of 40 miles per hour were reported at Pensacola International Airport.

Gulf Power Company

After rescinding its original $107 million rate hike request, Gulf Power Company’s compromise plan has received unanimous approval from the Public Service Commission. 

The settlement, crafted by Gulf Power, the Office of Public Counsel and other interested parties, goes into effect on July 1. Jeffery Stone is Gulf Power’s General Counsel, and had praise for the PSC staff.

Gulf Power Company goes before the Florida Public Service Commission in Tallahassee on Monday, seeking a $107 million increase in base rates.

If the PSC approves the hike, residential customers would pay an extra 10%, or about $14 per month. Average power bills would go from $144-$158.

“It’s never a good time to ask for an increase in prices, but it’s one of those things that we need to continue to invest in the long-term reliability of our energy infrastructure,” said Gulf Power spokesman Rick De La Haya.

Gulf Power Company

Florida’s Public Service Commission received input from a number of angles, during a public hearing on Gulf Power Company’s proposed rate increase Thursday night.

The vast majority of the nearly 60 speakers at Pensacola State College were against the $107 million increase in base rates. Among them was Steve Smith, the Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Most of the United States, including Florida, is now subject to the coldest and most widespread blast of arctic air so far this season. Preparations are being made-- or should be.

The Jet Stream, that upper-level river of air on which storms travel, is dropping to the south and bringing Arctic air with it.

“We’ve pretty much had a cold front that’s going through the area [Thursday], and we’re looking at a freeze across the whole area, even down to the coast,” said Don Shepherd, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile.

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall sometime on Friday, somewhere between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral, with its 140 mile an hour winds.

About two million people have been warned to flee inland to escape the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in over a decade. Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has a message for those living in evacuation zones.

“There are no excuses, you need to leave,” said the Governor. “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Hurricane Matthew has strengthened once again to a Category-4 storm as it barrels toward Florida’s heavily populated east coast. Help is on the way from a number of areas, including northwest Florida.  

Gulf Power Company

Gulf Power Company is considering a rate hike request aimed at bolstering its energy infrastructure. But for now, nothing is definite.

No concrete numbers are available as yet, but it’s believed any such request would be in the $115 million to $125 million range.

“What we did, is sent a letter to the Public Service Commission, letting them know that we may seek an increase later this year. But it’s an increase that wouldn’t go into effect until the summer of 2017,” said Jeff Rogers, the utility’s External Communications Manager.

 

  

  Pensacola Habitat for Humanity is hosting its 2nd Annual Community Summit this week. The event is being presented in partnership with NeighborWorks America and Gulf Power Company. It opens on Thursday, June 9 at 1 p.m. at Gulf Power headquarters downtown, 1 Energy Place.

Habitat’s Executive Director Tim Evans stopped by the WUWF studios to talk about this follow up to their inaugural Affordable Housing Summit held in 2015.

This year, organizers opted to broaden the scope of discussion and fittingly are calling this year’s event a community summit. 

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Gulf Power Company conducted its annual exercise Tuesday, aimed at restoring electricity in the aftermath of a hurricane or other emergency.

The situation room was full at the new Douglas McCrary Training and Storm Center on Pine Forest Rd., working on developments after “Hurricane Sharon.”

“The scenario is, it’s the day after a major hurricane has impacted the Gulf Coast, made landfall in Navarre,’ said Jeff Rogers, External Communications Manager at Gulf Power.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Two days after a tornado blasted through areas of Pensacola, the cleanup and rebuilding are shifting into high gear.

Escambia County’s Mobile Command Post remains operational in a shopping center parking lot at 9th Avenue and Olive Road:a short distance from The Moorings Apartments, where 30 units were destroyed.

“The biggest thing [Thursday] is going to be debris management and debris pickup. We’re trying to get information out to the public about separating their trash into four separate piles,” said county spokeswoman Amanda Taft.

Photo courtesy of NorthEscambia.com

A storm packing a suspected tornado razed at least 30 homes in Century, along with downing power lines and trees Monday afternoon. One woman was dug out of the rubble of her home, and is said to have non-life-threatening injuries.

“We always hate to hear of this type of event occurring, but it does happen periodically in our part of the world, We’re just very, very fortunate that we didn’t lose anybody in this event,’ said John Dosh, Escambia County Emergency Manager.

Residents in northwest Florida and south Alabama are advised to keep tabs on the weather the next couple of days, since the area remains under a hazardous weather outlook.

A surface-level high pressure area off to the east has been causing a flow of warm air up from the Gulf of Mexico, which is keeping temperatures in the 60's and 70's around the clock.

“It looks like it’s going to continue as we approach Christmas,” said Don Shepherd, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile. Those warm temps also mean a heightened chance for severe weather.

Gulf Power Company

Groundbreaking is set for Wednesday for a new partnership between Gulf Power Company and the U-S Navy, aimed at developing, generating, and distributing solar power.

Under a 37-year lease, Gulf Power will use almost 600 acres of property aboard NAS Pensacola, Whiting Field, and two outlying landing fields, Holly and Saufley. Natalie Smith at the utility says plans are to build two large generating facilities.

“Those are some of the details we have to work out, and figure out how much space would be needed,” said 

Pages