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Duke Energy demo preps Sumter leaders, first responders for storm response

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 8/23/19

Duke Energy caused harm to an innocent hot dog Thursday as it prepared Sumter leaders and first responders for the rest of the hurricane season.

The utility company held its annual storm school for the season's remaining tropical outlook and …

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Duke Energy demo preps Sumter leaders, first responders for storm response

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Duke Energy caused harm to an innocent hot dog Thursday as it prepared Sumter leaders and first responders for the rest of the hurricane season.

The utility company held its annual storm school for the season's remaining tropical outlook and discussed storm planning and response on Thursday afternoon at Central Carolina Technical College Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center.

"What we're doing here in Sumter today is one of four deliveries of what we call our storm schools that we do on the front end of hurricane season," said Theo Lane, district manager for government and community relations of Duke Energy South Carolina.

Two storm schools are held in Florence in the afternoon and evening and two in Sumter in the afternoon and evening.

More than 75 local leaders, first responders, police and firefighters attended on Thursday representing Sumter, Clarendon, Williamsburg, Manning, Georgetown and more.

"The partnership between us and our first responders enables them to share information with us and us with them," Lane said. "It enables them to understand what our strategies are and how we deploy resources to best bring our customers back online as quickly and safely as possible."

He said storm schools are an educational way to inform Duke Energy's community about how it projects the seasonal storms, prepares in advance and recovers from the damage caused.

Line servicemen Ronnie Knight, Wayne James and Dan Harrington talked about employee and customer safety guidelines and instructions for before, during and after storms. They highlighted the employees' and customers' jobs in these situations as well as public and personnel safety.

"Line service work is a dangerous vocation, but we emphasize safety in everything we do," Lane said. "Safety is always our No. 1 priority."

Duke Energy also performed a live line demonstration that showed the dangers of operating around energized equipment and the safety measures Duke Energy takes while working on equipment to restore power to customers.

They showed how animal guards on the lines protect critters like squirrels and snakes. They showed how their gear protects them from getting electrocuted and what would happen if they weren't, as exampled by the singed hot dog.

"When significant storms hit and major amounts of our resources are on the ground, it takes a lot to put that back up," Lane said.

Serving the Carolinas, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, Duke Energy has a lot of ground to cover. Luckily, its meteorology teams help with pre-storm monitoring.

Lane said meteorologists tell Duke Energy at least a week in advance that storms are underway. They then hold conference calls days in advance. Within 72 hours before storms affect the area, Duke Energy is filling up hotels in the affected region with line workers and resources to bring customers' power back on as soon as possible.

"We are a shared service," Duke Energy Senior Meteorologist Max Thompson said.

Thompson shared how Duke Energy can prepare for weather conditions in advance and strategically with the help of meteorologists.

"We're looking at major storms anything that could cause major outages," Thompson said.

Specific weather conditions affect the operations and services of Duke Energy.

For example, meteorologists clear line servicemen to use bucket trucks and work on electrical lines based on weather conditions. If wind gusts are more than 30 miles per hour, Duke Energy can't fly its bucket trucks for safety purposes.

Thompson also shared the predicted tropical Atlantic forecast of 2019 with those who attended.

"We're actually really behind. We're typically at a four or five name storm typically at this time in the season, but we actually went through nearly a record-breaking drought for tropical activity," Thompson said.

A couple days ago, Thompson said, they spotted the third named storm of the season - Chantal.

The updated forecast, according to Duke Energy meteorologists, is:

- Above normal activity of 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major storms

- Currently a lack of activity

- No named storms since Hurricane Barry on July 14, which the last time there was no activity through Aug. 19 was in 1982

Hurricane season begins in June and ends after November, with peak months running through August to October.