By Tim O’Meilia
Most coastal residents won’t have to flee to higher ground when a mere Category 1 hurricane approaches under the year-old evacuation rules — except, of course, those mobile home folks in Briny Breezes.
But, staying home during a Big Blow poses other concerns. Such as: How do you keep the lights? While more and more coastal towns are putting their power, telephone and cable TV lines underground, plenty haven’t found the cash to do it in these not-quite post-Great Recession times.
So the answer is: Keep your lush, shady gumbo limbo branches away from power lines so gale-force winds won’t collapse your vegetation onto the electric lines and force you into kerosene lamp mode.
Florida Power & Light, not to mention AT&T and Comcast, have further advice: Trim your trees now before the storm watches begin.
While FPL hires line-clearing contractors to keep their overheads clear, AT&T and Concast, not so much.
“We clear all our main distribution lines every three years and neighborhood lines every six years,” said FPL spokesman Greg Brostowicz. Main lines are the ones that run down A1A. Neighborhood lines run down your street.
But here’s the catch: “We will only prune or trim branches and limbs that can potentially cause safety hazards and power outages falling on power lines during bad weather,’’ Brostowicz said.
That means FPL will trim only trees very close to its lines. It isn’t going to be your tree-trimmer on retainer. If you really want peace of mind and you don’t want the cable to go out, you’ll have to trim your close-but-not-too-close vegetation yourself.
Or, better yet, as FPL suggests, hire a pro. FPL uses “utility-qualified” Asplundh Tree Expert Co. and Lewis Tree Service, but there are others.
“There’s two important points to remember. First, if you’re going to have your trees trimmed, do it prior to a hurricane warning because that’s when trash pickup is stopped and there will be no one to pick up the trimmings,” Brostowicz said.
“Second, don’t try to trim near power lines yourself. Hire a professional who is licensed and specially trained to trim near power lines.”
FPL has much more information, including videos and frequently asked questions, at its website, fpl.com/trees.
If you’re convinced a tree limb is posing an imminent threat to a power line, log on to your online FPL account and click “Tree Trimming” on the left. Or call 800-4OUTAGE (800-468-8243).