Some 27,000 Lakeland Electric customers face, wait for power

LAKELAND – The aroma of charcoal and meat wafted from the porch of a Kettles Avenue home.

Shane Terrell tended the grill on Friday afternoon, serving burgers, sausages and chicken to his partner, Santana Manning, and their nine children, ages 3 to 20. It was the only option for cooking, as the power remained out in their homes and others in the northwest Lakeland neighborhood known as “The Bottoms”.

“You have to learn to survive,” Terrell, 39, said. “You have to go back to the Stone Age, rubbing sticks together.”

After a laugh, he added, “No, it’s not that bad. It gives these kids time away from video games. They have no choice but to be out now.

Shane Terrell sits with his sons, Elijah, Front, and Zyon at their home in Lakeland on Friday afternoon.  With the power still off, Terrell was grilling food on the porch.

As he spoke, one of his boys was pedaling a bicycle.

Terrell and Manning said they expected to be without power for a few days.

“I was riding, and there are (houses) worse than ours,” Terrell said. “I’d be happy to have the lights back on by Monday.”

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Lakeland Electric: 1,200 active outages

As of Friday afternoon, Lakeland Electric reported about 1,200 active outages affecting more than 21,000 customers.

Loss of power means no air conditioning. Hurricane Ian left surprisingly cool weather in its wake on Thursday, but the temperature had soared into the 80s by Friday afternoon.

“Luckily it was cool, but it doesn’t look cool tonight,” Terrell said with a chuckle. “Looks like it’s going to be an old fashioned hotbox tonight.”

The couple said they had an elderly neighbor whose family took her to their home until power was restored.

Around the corner from Whitehurst Street, Manning’s mother, Rose Burns, sat in a vehicle parked in her driveway, charging her cell phone. Burns, 53, has her two sons and stepdaughter living with her.

Burns said she and her neighbors endured heartbreaking times during Hurricane Ian’s passage Wednesday night. Something hit a window in Burns’ house, shattering the glass. As the winds blew through the house, Burns’ son ventured outside and brought a door inside to cover the opening.

Burns said she was doing the dishes Wednesday night when the lights started flashing. Within moments, an electrical transformer on her street apparently exploded.

“I got to the front door, and the moment I closed it and walked back into the front room, it was the brightest light I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said. “I went into a karate move because it scared me.”

She said a power line fell on a house across the street, but all occupants of the house escaped unharmed.

Burns said his home, built in 1945, had a slightly leaking roof. She was grateful she didn’t experience the same level of flooding she experienced after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“You have to be strong,” Burns said. “You can’t fall weak. I am strong.

Lakeland Electric crews cut down a tree Friday afternoon that fell on power lines during Hurricane Ian.  The street was blocked in both directions near the village of Ariana as work progressed.

After nearly two days without power, everything in Burns’ fridge had gone bad.

“We lost the food,” Burns said. “I hope some neighbors will bring food or come and cook us something.”

Burns said she visited a friend Thursday night to take a hot bath and watch the news on TV. She remembers being without electricity for more than a week after Hurricane Irma. She seemed to expect a repeat of this misery.

“I think it’s going to take a while – at least a week or two,” she said. “It’s a waiting game, just like fishing. You can call and call, but you can’t rush. We are not the only ones without electricity.

Gary White can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.

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