Katerina Rettino, 21, was brushing her teeth in the bathroom Wednesday at 10 a.m. when the power went out. At her house located in northwest Gainesville, Rettino and her four roommates remained without power for about six hours.
“We had to always plan out what we were going to take out of the fridge before we’d open the door so that it wouldn’t stay open for too long. And then obviously, we couldn’t cook anything,” Rettino said.
Rettino’s household was one of thousands to experience a power outage in Gainesville due to Hurricane Idalia.
Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) had its electric staff on-call in 12-hour shifts beginning at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Idalia had just made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near Keaton Beach when GRU started to get reports of an onslaught of power outages at 7:53 a.m.
Out of GRU’s 93,000 customers, 1,300 were without power, according to social media updates posted on X (formerly known as Twitter). By 8:32 a.m., GRU had 3,097 customers without power. By 9 a.m., it had 7,852 with no power. At its peak, GRU had approximately 14,000 customers simultaneously without power, according to Maureen Murtha, GRU’s senior communications specialist.
“[Power outages] were dispersed equally around our service area,” Murtha said. “There was no one part [affected,] which is kind of interesting.
Murtha said that is not how storm outages usually occur.
“We usually have one really hot zone that gets a massive outage,” she said, noting that this time there were outages in northeast, northwest and south Gainesville. “We didn’t have a singular massive outage. We had lots and lots and lots of small outages that affected 20 homes here, 100 homes there.”
By noon, GRU’s power outages had significantly decreased to 500. By 4 p.m. GRU had reported 208 customers without power.
Hannah Ashley Davis, a University of Florida international exchange student from England, said she lost power in her apartment at The Hub for less than two hours.
“I expected the power to be off for a lot longer,” Davis said.
Jack Michaud, 21, lives in Northwest Gainesville and said he lost power for about four hours. Michaud said he saw GRU trucks making rounds around his neighborhood when the effects of the hurricane had stopped.
There were 37 GRU power line crew members fixing outages. But they were not alone. Alabama utility companies from the City of Fairhope, Troy Utilities and Riviera Utilities sent a total of 39 additional crews to help fix power lines. These utility companies were returning the favor, as GRU had helped Alabama with restoration when Hurricane Sally hit in 2020.
Additionally, 26 tree trimmers came down from utility company Asplundh in North Carolina.
“We had people coming from quite a distance just to work on trees. [They came] with the understanding that we’re a tree city with tons of vegetation. Tree fall is the biggest threat to our town during a storm,” Murtha said.
GRU crew members are usually pulled off the road when hurricane winds reach speeds of 55 mph. But Hurricane Idalia never reached 55 mph in Gainesville, allowing GRU crew members to safely and quickly restore the minor damage the hurricane had caused to power lines.
By 10 a.m. Thursday, GRU had 100% of its customers with their power running.