Widespread power outages reported across Florida
Gary Taylor and Kristen Reed
As many as 800,000 customers are without power today as Florida is experiencing widespread power outages.
The state's largest electric company says it has not determined a cause.Local utility officials said two nuclear power plants in South Florida went out.
Blackouts were reported throughout parts of Central Florida, as well as the Tampa Bay area and area from Miami to Jacksonville.
In the Orlando area, schools, businesses and intersections are without power this afternoon.
In Orange County, Dommerich Elementary, Maitland High and Riverside Elementary are without power. Schools in the southwest area, including Freedom High and Sadler Elementary, briefly lost power earlier today.
Customers also reported the power failed at a Wal-Mart in Apopka.
In Volusia, motorists are reporting traffic signals out at intersections from Ormond Beach in northeast Volusia to Deltona and DeBary in the southwest part of the county, Sheriff's spokesman Brandon Haught said.
About 7,000 customers of Kissimmee Utility Authority lost power for about 20 minutes today. Spokesman Chris Gent said the system, sensing a blackout, shut itself down to protect the equipment and then went back online. All KUA customers now have power.
Early reports say the areas of Miami, Doral, Westchester and Pembroke Pines are without power, as is the Port of Miami. The outages began shortly after 1 p.m. EST.
Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman Nelda Fonticiella tells WSVN-TV that they are working with Florida Power & Light to assess the situation. It is unclear how many people are affected.
An FPL spokeswoman told The Miami Herald the company is investigating the problem. Earlier, CNN reported as many as 4 million customers lost power, but FPL said in a news release that from 600,000 to 800,000 customers experienced blackouts.
In Dade County, students were being held at schools for safety reasons due to large numbers of traffic signals being out due to power failures, said Quintin Taylor, media relations specialist for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Students were only being released to the care of a parent or guardian, he said. All school transportation was suspended due to the non-functional traffic lights, he said
Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said control towers at South Florida's airports are operating on engine-driven generators. She said the emergency generators kick on "automatically when commercial power fails, regardless of the cause."
Major hospitals in Broward were also relatively unaffected by the outage, thanks to back-up generators, officials said.
"We just had a momentary blip," said Kathy Capstack, spokeswoman for Broward General Medical Center, in Fort Lauderdale.
Sarah Marmion, a spokeswoman for FPL, said initial reports indicated the problem is confined to South Florida, "but it could be a wider area."
There was no estimate on when power will be back on or how many customers are being affected.
"It's statewide, going all the way up to Daytona," said Bill Huff, Miramar's Chief of Emergency Medical Services, speaking from the Broward Emergency Operations Center.