Local power companies and electric cooperatives are bracing for unprecedented power outages, with Duke Energy anticipating as many as 3 million, and designating 20,000 workers to a recovery effort that will take “not days, but weeks.”
Duke Energy meteorologists are estimating power outages in the Carolinas from approaching Hurricane Florence could be between 1-3 million customers.
“The magnitude of the storm is beyond what we have seen in years,” said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy’s incident commander. “With the storm expected to linger, power restoration work could take weeks instead of days.”
More than 20,000 people are in place to restore power — the largest resource mobilization ever for Duke Energy. More than 8,000 Carolinas-based workers are being joined by 1,700 workers from Duke Energy Midwest and 1,200 from Duke Energy Florida to respond to this storm. And with 9,400 additional resources coming from other utilities to help.
“Despite our workforce, customers should continue to make plans for their homes and facilities,” said Fowler. “It’s important for people to know this is no ordinary storm and customers could be without power for a very long time – not days, but weeks.”
Restoring power after a massive storm can be extremely challenging for utility repair crews, as travel and work conditions can be impacted by high winds and widespread flooding — making repair work lengthy and difficult.
“This will be a challenging time for our customers,” added Fowler. “As the storm approaches, we want them to remain safe and we appreciate their patience as Duke Energy works to restore damage.”
Meanwhile, officials with Tri-County EMC, Four County EMC and South River EMC were prepping trucks with all necessary supplies and materials, with contract crews on standby ready to respond in the event of outages.
South River has been busy at work preparing vehicles, arranging out-of-state line crews, and tree-cutting experts to assist in the restoration efforts immediately following the storm. Nearly 100 hotel rooms have been reserved, hundreds of meals planned and a myriad of supplies secured in anticipation of a long restoration period.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Catherine O’Dell, VP of Member Services and PR. “In order to ensure the safety of our personnel, who are dedicated to restoring service as quickly as possible, we cannot have anyone in a bucket when wind speeds exceed 35 miles per hour.
“We learned with Hurricane Matthew that flooded roads pose a special danger for our big trucks at night when it’s impossible to determine if a road is flooded or possibly washed out. Additionally, flooding impedes the ability to maneuver across the area.”
The cooperative advises members to prepare for outages that can last at least one week. Each home should have of emergency supplies to last that long. Having a plan is especially important if there is someone in the home with special needs.
“We recommend that anyone with reliance on electricity should make sure they have a generator with plenty of fuel or battery backup to last at least one week,” said O’Dell. “If neither of these options is available, we highly recommend evacuating to one of the area shelters.”
“We are all hoping that the effect of the storm is less than is forecasted,” O’Dell continued. “However, in our business it is best to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.”
The following tips can help you and your family stay safe if the power goes out:
• Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees, limbs or anything in contact with lines.
• Create (or update) an emergency supply kit to save valuable time later. The kit should include everything an individual or family would need for at least two weeks, especially medicines and other supplies that might be hard to find after a storm strikes.
• Maintain a supply of water and non-perishable food.
• Keep a portable radio or TV, or NOAA weather radio on hand to monitor weather forecasts and important information from state and local officials.
• Charge cellphones, computers and other electronic devices in advance of the storm to stay connected to important safety and response information. Consider purchasing portable chargers and make sure they are fully charged as well.
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.