About 942,000 Georgia homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday afternoon as utilities whittled away at outages that left more than 1.5 million customers in the dark Monday after Tropical Storm Irma passed through.
The state’s utilities said they called in thousands of extra workers to begin catching up on the damage.
“This is one of the biggest storms the company has experienced,” said Georgia Power spokesperson Holly Crawford.
The Atlanta utility said it had beefed up its response to the storm to 6,000 workers, from 3,400 before the storm hit, by calling in additional people from neighboring utilities in Alabama, Mississippi and more than 20 other states.
Georgia EMC, a trade group for electric utility cooperatives, also known as EMCs, said they brought in hundreds of workers from other utilities to supplement their crews.
“Today is a big day,” said Crawford. With the passing of the storm, she said, Georgia Power began sending out teams overnight to assess sites for the risk of falling trees, flooded bridges and other hazards before sending in line crews.
Crawford said the company is giving highest priority to power outages affecting hospitals, nursing homes and schools, then tackling repairs that will restore power quickly to the largest number of customers.
Still, she said many customers shouldn’t expect their lights to come back on for two days, given the huge number of power outages. Some outages may take up to a week to fix, she said.
“There is extensive, extensive damage. There is water over bridges,” she said.
The biggest challenges are in Savannah due to flooding and in metro Atlanta due to large numbers of downed trees across power lines and roads, she said. Bridges have to be inspected before crews can cross, she said. Massive trees are blocking roads, especially in metro Atlanta.
By late-afternoon Tuesday, 622,000 Georgia Power customers were still without power, according to the Atlanta utility’s state-wide outage map. Some 402,000 of those were in metro Atlanta, but that was down from 561,000 early in the day.
About 320,000 customers of electric utility cooperatives around the state were still without power, according to Georgia EMC, down from 428,000 at 7:30 a.m. Metro Atlanta accounted for about 89,000, down roughly 68,000 in the same period.
Overall, the number of customers statewide who are waiting for service to be restored has dropped by about 329,000 since 7:30 am, as the utilities re-routed power and repaired damaged lines.
Georgia EMC said its electric coops, known as EMCs, had cut the number of customer outages from 537,000 overnight.