'This is no ordinary storm': Electric companies say power restoration after Hurricane Florence could take weeks

BY ADRIENNE SARVIS
adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 9/14/18

Duke Energy is expecting to have more than 20,000 people dedicated to power restoration in North Carolina and South Carolina, where 1 to 3 million customers are expected to lose power because of Hurricane Florence, according to Duke Energy.

"The …

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'This is no ordinary storm': Electric companies say power restoration after Hurricane Florence could take weeks

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Duke Energy is expecting to have more than 20,000 people dedicated to power restoration in North Carolina and South Carolina, where 1 to 3 million customers are expected to lose power because of Hurricane Florence, according to Duke Energy.

"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."

A news release from Duke states those 20,000 workers will be part of the largest resource mobilization ever for the company.

About 1,700 workers from Duke Energy Midwest - Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana - will join more than 8,000 Carolinas-based workers and 1,200 workers from Duke Energy Florida in response to the storm.

Duke is expecting an additional 9,400 resources to come from other utility companies, states the release.

Ryan Mosier, communications director for Duke Energy, said trucks are headed to the city of Florence to monitor the storm and determine a response after it passes.

Florence - one of a few staging areas for Duke and its partners - was chosen because it connects to two major interstates and is near the coast, he said.

Despite the anticipated manpower, Duke encourages residents to make preparations ahead of the storm's arrival because it could take weeks for power to be restored in some areas.

"It's important for people to know this is no ordinary storm," Fowler said, "and customers could be without power for a very long time - not days, but weeks."

The Electric Cooperative of South Carolina Inc. - which includes Black River Electric Cooperative - is also expecting delays in the arrival of line workers and repairs because Hurricane Florence is predicted to slow down as it crosses the state.

"If this thing slow-walks across the state," said Reed Cooper, manager of engineering at Horry Electric Cooperative in Conway, "the first consumers to lose power could be off for an extra time period while the storm passes - plus the time it takes to make repairs.

"It's just one more headache for both consumers and utilities."

At least 500 line-workers from Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Mississippi have already arrived in South Carolina to assist Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, and another 250 workers in surrounding states are on standby.

High winds - above 35 miles per hour - prevent line crews from using bucket trucks to lift workers, according to the release. Even in less intense wind, flying debris, the risk of falling trees and ongoing electrical system damage prevent workers from beginning repairs.

"As frustrating as it may sound," Cooper said, "we literally have to just sit and wait sometimes."

One bright spot in this scenario is that assessment teams can venture out to "lay eyes on the damage" before repair crews move out.

"We need to know what kind of damage exists," he said, "so we can put the right people with the right equipment in the right place."