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Sunday, December 10, 2023

1,000 trucks gathered near The Villages as Duke Energy preps for Idalia

Around 1,000 trucks and thousands of line workers were gathered at a staging site in Sumter County on Tuesday as Duke Energy prepares its response to Hurricane Idalia.

Duke Energy trucks at staging site in Center Hill on August 29
Over 1,000 trucks were gathered by Duke Energy at a staging site in Center Hill on August 29

On Tuesday afternoon, approximately 1,000 trucks and thousands of lineman were gathered by Duke Energy at a 65-acre staging site located along State Road 471.

The crews are making final preparations in anticipation of Hurricane Idalia, which is scheduled to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning.

In addition to the trucks, dozens of charter buses were gathered to transport the line workers to and from area hotels.

Charter buses lined up at staging site in Center Hill
Charter buses lined up at staging site in Center Hill on August 29, 2023

According to Duke Energy Communications Manager Ben Williamson, the staging area is the largest in the state and will service North Central Florida. A separate, smaller staging area that has been set up at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg will serve other impacted areas.

In total, Williamson says that 5,000 line workers will be mobilized across the state, with many of the workers coming from outside of Florida.

That includes Troy Roberson and Jeremie LaRose, who both work for Recovery Logistics.

LaRose, a veteran of the Army from Hope Mills, North Carolina, and Roberson, a veteran of the Marines from Canton, Georgia, both joined the power industry in the past decade and have made several, similar trips to Florida to help others, including last year during Hurricane Ian.

“I spend most of my days behind the desk, and this is a good way to get out and help somebody out,” said Roberson.

Jeremie LaRose (left) and Troy Roberson (right)
Jeremie LaRose (left) and Troy Roberson (right) at the staging site in Center Hill, Florida on August 29, 2023

Both men traveled over 400 miles and left their families because of a sense of duty to their fellow southerners.

Both men spoke fondly of Florida and The Villages, saying they have friends  that live in the area and that they look forward to helping out whenever they can.

“It kind of feels like we’re back in the military doing this again,” said LaRose.

“We’ve been doing this for years together,” said Roberson.

According to Williamson, crews will be dispatched once winds are below 35 miles per hour to restore power to all those effected, beginning first with life essential facilities as is standard procedure.

As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Hurricane Idalia is located around 195 miles southwest of Tampa and is moving north at 15 mph. The hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, making it at least a Category 2 hurricane as of this moment.

The National Hurricane Center says that the hurricane is expected to move north-northeast early Wednesday morning, when it is scheduled to make landfall in Florida.

According to officials, satellite images show the hurricane continues to strengthen and that it will be a “major hurricane” when it reaches the gulf.

The hurricane is expected to produce “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions” along portions of the Gulf Coast of Florida later tonight and into Wednesday morning.

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