HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The main concern for hundreds of thousands of people in Tampa Bay following Hurricane Ian is just getting the lights back on.
Nearly 100,000 Tampa Electric customers in Hillsborough and Polk Counties are still without power.
“When the tree fell, it blew up all the lights,” Lorenzo Velazquez said.
The massive tree that once stood tall on the front lawn of Velazquez’s Valrico home is now blocking Durant Road in both directions.
“We were in the living room and all of a sudden heard a loud explosion and the tree just came down along the road,” Velazquez said.
The toppled-over tree is a traffic safety hazard. Before “Road Closed” signs went up, Velazquez said a car rammed right into the tree.
With lines dangling off crooked utility poles, hundreds of TECO customers in this area are still waiting for their electricity to be restored.
“No hot water. Nothing,” Velazquez said.
The combination of Hurricane Ian’s powerful winds and ground that was already saturated from summer storms resulted in trees falling over across the Tampa Bay area.
Nearly 300,000 TECO customers lost power on Wednesday. As of 10 p.m. Friday night, TECO’s outage map shows the power is back on for nearly 65% of them.
“We are making significant progress around the clock to restore power, and we won’t stop until we’ve restored every customer,” said Archie Collins, president and chief executive officer of Tampa Electric. “We know that customers are trying to get life back to normal, and having electricity is a key part of that. Thank you for your patience.”
According to TECO, nearly 3,000 lineworkers, tree trimmers, and damage assessors from as far away as Oklahoma and Texas were out helping their crews restore power on Friday.
Velazquez told 8 On Your Side he had hoped one of those crews would have responded to the major mess in front of his home by now.
“Come fix this as soon as possible ’cause we’re having a hard way to get along here and then school is coming,” he said.
A TECO spokesperson told 8 On Your Side a crew is scheduled to respond Saturday to the large tree down on Durant Road. The company expects to restore power for the vast majority of its customer by Sunday night.