Power poles, wires, and sparking transformers were all over the roads of Jupiter Island after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hammered the community.
We had to repair all of that,” said Charles Falcone to the Palm Beach Post. He was a Jupiter Island commissioner and a retired American Electric Power Co. executive.
Image: Hurricane Frances, Jupiter Island
Jupiter Island, a wealthy Martin County settlement between the ocean and Intracoastal just like Palm Beach, suffered numerous short power outages normally, which Mr. Falcone said "It comes with living in a coastal town with power lines above the ground."
But the mess the storms left behind got officials moving on alternative ways to get their electricity.
"We know that undergrounding works," Mr. Falcone said. "It's not just from the hurricanes. When it comes to reliability, we find in Florida that we suffer from a lot of other things you just don't get in other states."
There is sea-spray corrosion, fast-growing vegetation, and frequent lightning strikes.
Image: Hurricane Wilma. Snapped concrete pole in Boca Raton
Plus the look of these bulky hardened poles and tangles of wires and transformers suspended in the air. It just doesn’t match what you would expect in an upscale community.
Since Jupiter Island has buried their lines in 2012, they have reported one outage that lasted seven seconds.
Aesthetics isn't driving the current push for underground lines. Storms are.
When the hurricanes left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark for days, the outcry to put lines underground could be heard from the barrier islands to the suburbs. A total of 50 cities and towns across the region have talked to FPL about underground lines.
Many Palm Beachers have heard about Jupiter Island undergrounding their utilities. But most don’t know that there are local large-scale developments that have had underground utilities for years. Here are three examples:
The Bluffs [Located between the ocean and Intracoastal in Juno Beach, Palm Beach County]
The Bluffs on the ocean in Juno Beach, between the beach and the Intracoastal, was built between 1985 and 2003. The community has over 1,000 single family homes and condos in 7 neighborhoods and their utilities have been underground from the start.
They have been through flooding rains and the hurricanes of 2004 – 2007 and only 2 storms caused power out for the community for 1-2 days AND THAT WAS CAUSED BY DOWNED OVERHEAD POWERLINES ON U.S. 1 (FEDERAL HIGHWAY) THAT FEED THE BLUFFS.
Abacoa [Located in Jupiter, Palm Beach County]
Abacoa is a master-planned community in Jupiter of over 7,500 single-family, town-homes, and condos in a dozen neighborhoods built between the year 2000 and today (Palm Beach has 7,300 residential addresses). All have underground utilities. During the 2004 – 2007 hurricanes, about 5,000 of the homes were completed and Wilma caused the biggest impact. THEIR POWER WAS OUT FOR JUST A FEW HOURS (LESS THAN A DAY) because their utilities were underground.
RiverWalk [Located 1 mile west of the Turnpike, West Palm Beach]
RiverWalk is a master-planned community where almost 1,000 single-family homes and townhomes are built on peninsulas surrounded by water. The community was completed in 2003 and they were built with underground utilities. Power outages are rare even though they are exposed to the summer monsoon style rains and all of the 2004 - 2007 hurricanes.
Image: RiverWalk west on Okeechobee
Around South Florida & Across the State & Country
There are many more. In fact, more and more communities are relying on underground utilities in Florida and across the country. They do so because of reliability, repair costs, and aesthetics. Almost all new developments are planned with underground utilities. Here are the communities that have undergrounding programs either completed, in process, or planned.
Palm Beach County
North Palm Beach
Palm Beach Gardens
Royal Palm Beach
West Palm Beach
Lauderdale By The Sea