Hurricane Irma has knocked out power to at least 4.7 million customers,
paralyzed tanker traffic and shut about 6,000 petrol stations. As the storm
heads up Florida’s
west coast, it’s also threatening more than $1 billion worth of crops.
Energy Florida Power & Light utility warned Sunday that some customers
may go without power for weeks, and parts of its system may need to be rebuilt
“from the ground up.” The company took offline one of two reactors at a nuclear
plant south of Miami.
Ports critical to supplying the state with gasoline and diesel were also closed
and energy companies including Exxon Mobil and Kinder Morgan Inc. shut fuel
terminals and pipelines.
deliveries in Florida
are virtually nonexistent,” Mansfield Oil, a Georgia-based energy supplier,
said in a report. “Markets will take time to fully recover, particularly if
Irma damages fuelling infrastructure.”
Irma, now a
Category 1 storm and forecast to weaken into a tropical storm as it moves over
northern Florida and Georgia,
threatens to sap natural gas demand by cutting use from power plants. The
hurricane may also wreak havoc on Florida’s
farmlands, menacing $1.2 billion worth of production in the top US grower of
fresh tomatoes, oranges, green beans, cucumbers, squash and sugar cane.
production is the most vulnerable of crops as Irma moves north along Florida’s west coast, said Paul Market, a meteorologist
at MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg,
Maryland. About 25 percent of the
crop may be lost.
Florida’s orange, grapefruit and other
citrus trees are full of developing fruit that Irma may blow away. Winds could
also destroy the trees themselves in a region that accounts for almost 10
percent of the nation’s fruit and vegetable farmland. Orange-juice futures and
domestic sugar prices rallied last week as Irma drew closer.
ports and terminals including Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Port
Everglades and Jacksonville
were closed to traffic. Florida, which depends
wholly on pipelines and tankers for fuel supplies, was already facing fuel
challenges after Hurricane Harvey knocked offline refining capacity in the Gulf Coast.
Read also: #HurricaneIrma thrives on fateful mix of 'ideal' conditions
Morgan shut a pipeline system that carries gasoline, ethanol, diesel and jet
fuel to land-locked Orlando from Tampa; all of its fuel terminals in Florida;
and the Elba Island
liquefied natural gas plant in Georgia.
Power & Light said in a press conference broadcast online Sunday that
restoring electricity will be “one of the most complex” endeavors the utility’s
ever faced. The feed to the broadcast itself cut out for several minutes due to
a power failure.
we are not immune to Irma’s wrath," Rob Gould, a spokesman for the
utility, said after the feed for the webcast had been restored.