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How are utilities preparing for hurricane season?

One of the Public Service Commission's biggest concerns is wooden poles.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It seems like Hurricane Irma wasn't that long ago, but here we are just a few weeks away from the 2018 hurricane season.

Now regulators in Tallahassee want to know: What are utility companies doing to get ahead of possible storms?

Ana Gibbs with Duke Energy says improvements, like creating a self-healing system, are already in the works.

“Think of it just like your GPS system in a car crash and it reroutes you," she said. "The same thing happens to your energy grid. It reroutes the energy so less people have a power outage. Preparing for hurricane season is something that Duke Energy does 365 days a year.”

TECO spokeswoman Sylvia Vega says the utility never stops prepping.

“We focus on our system and our people," she said. "With our system, we are always hardening our system, we do a lot of tree trimming and vegetation management."

One of the Public Service Commission's biggest concerns is wooden poles. They want utilities to build concrete power poles instead.

“We do look at replacing wooden poles with concrete poles particularly in areas where we see a lot of wood pecker damage,” Vega said.

Metal poles are also an option.

“Instead of wooden poles, we are moving towards both steel and concrete poles,” Gibbs added.

Underground powerlines are known to be more stable, but cost a lot more money.

“Undergrounding is not only expensive, it can also be an environmental impact when those underground lines are put in," Gibbs said. "Additionally, when underground lines go out, it can also be some of the most difficult to restore."

TECO supports underground powerlines, but with a catch.

"We must balance the cost effectiveness with the impact to our customer rates," Vega said. "Currently about 45 percent of our system is underground.”

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