East Coast utilities, governors brace for Hurricane Sandy

Utilities and state governors up and down the East Coast are urging residents to be prepared as Hurricane Sandy brings heavy rain and strong winds to the region.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a state of emergency has been declared for each of these states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia.

DOE further noted that as of 8 a.m. EST, on Oct. 29, the impacted states reported a total of 36,426 customers without power in the affected areas. Also, as of 8 a.m., EST, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported Hurricane Sandy has maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, DOE said, adding that the hurricane is 265 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., moving north-northeast at 20 mph.

For the latest conditions from the NHC, click here.

DOE said the NHC predicts hurricane force winds are expected along portions of the coast between Chincoteague, Va., and Chatham, Mass. The center of the storm is forecast to be near the Mid-Atlantic coast later on Oct. 29.

According to a Genscape update on the PJM Interconnection region, there is a risk that the high winds making way into New Jersey will force the shutdown of several nuclear units, including Salem and Hope Creek the evening of Oct. 29. Genscape also said there were no significant unplanned transmission outages since an earlier update on Oct. 29.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Oct. 29 said inspectors at all nuclear power plants are independently verifying that plant operators are making the proper preparations, following relevant procedures and taking appropriate actions to ensure plant safety. Plants to receive enhanced oversight during the storm include Salem and Hope Creek in New Jersey, Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and Three Mile Island 1 in Pennsylvania.

Northeast

In an Oct. 29 statement, ISO New England said it is working with regional transmission owners, generator owners and local control centers to coordinate the operations of the New England power system through the storm. Among other things, ISO-NE said all maintenance-related generation and transmission outages have been cancelled or postponed. 

Connecticut Light and Power, a Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) company, said on Oct. 25 that it has activated its emergency response plan, opened its emergency operations center and is making preparations for storm damage and restoration.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on Oct. 29 ordered road closures for all state highways.

In Maine, Bangor Hydro Electric and Maine Public Service, which are regulated electricity transmission and distribution utilities wholly owned by Emera, said on Oct. 27 that they will work together to cover both service territories and deploy crews to support each other as needed.

Central Maine Power, a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, said on Oct. 28 that it has called in extra crews from Canada in anticipation of heavy weather when the hurricane’s remnants reach Maine. Iberdrola is a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed a limited emergency declaration that was issued on Oct. 26 to allow power crews from other states and/or Canada to help the state prepare for the hurricane.

National Grid plc subsidiary National Grid USA said on Oct. 28 that it continues to prepare in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for potential high winds, torrential rains and flooding in low-lying areas.

“Customers should prepare for the possibility of extended power outages,” Kathy Lyford, National Grid New England vice president of operations, said in the statement. “If there is extensive flooding along the New England coast, there also could be natural gas service interruptions.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced on Oct. 26 steps the state has taken to prepare for the storm, including coordinating with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, state agencies and the utilities.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Oct. 28 signed a declaration of disaster emergency in advance of the hurricane’s landfall.

Mid-Atlantic

The New York ISO (NYISO) said on Oct. 29 that it has been coordinating storm preparation plans with the New York transmission owners, the Northeast Power Coordinating Council and the generation companies.

All previously scheduled outages to perform maintenance work on New York transmission facilities and generators have been postponed to ensure these facilities are available over the next several days. NYISO also said the transmission owners have reported significant numbers of additional field operation crews are available to respond to the expected storm disruptions.

PJM Interconnection said on Oct. 29 that the electric transmission system in the region remains in good condition as the hurricane approaches, with no serious issues reported on the grid as of 9 a.m., EST.

Transmission line maintenance was deferred and all but two major lines were returned to service. PJM also said it has scheduled additional generating units to be available to run along the East Coast to replace generation that may be forced to shut down because of the storm.

Pepco Holdings (NYSE:POM) subsidiaries Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power and Light and Potomac Electric Power (Pepco), on Oct. 28 urged residents to complete storm preparations to protect families and homes.

Pepco, which delivers electric service to more than 788,000 customers in Maryland and the District of Columbia, said its parent company has requested 3,700 outside crew members through the utility mutual assistance process.

“Employees already are working their storm response roles, answering customer calls around the clock, checking inventories, engaging in customer outreach and planning our field crew resources,” Thomas Graham, president, Pepco Region, said in the statement.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, according to a separate Oct. 28 statement, expanded his executive order that declared a state of emergency for the state to include a requirement that businesses in mandatory evacuation zones must close by 6 p.m., EST, on Oct. 28.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley urged residents on Oct. 26 to prepare for the extreme weather. He also signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency, according to his statement.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said on Oct. 29 that federal aid has been made available to the state to supplement state and local emergency response efforts.

Similarly, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo thanked President Obama for granting his “request for a federal emergency declaration, which will apply to the entire state of New York.”

Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison), a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED) said on Oct. 28 that it is bracing for the possibility the storm will damage overhead and underground equipment. The company said thousands of its employees and field crews will work “around the clock” and that it has secured more than 700 external contractors, including line workers, to assist.

National Grid USA said on Oct. 28 that in anticipation of Sandy’s impact in New York, it has activated its storm emergency plan, including calling in extra crews.

“Once the storm passes and we see the extent of the damage it has caused, we’ll be able to better predict how long it may take to restore any natural gas service interruptions,” Ken Daly, National Grid USA’s president in New York, said in the statement.

Southeast

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue on Oct. 26 urged residents to keep “a watchful eye” on the hurricane, noting that the storm is unusual and its path is uncertain.

Among other utilities responding to the storm in the East, Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) said on Oct. 25 that as the hurricane begins to make its way up the East Coast, it is making preparations for possible effects from the storm in Florida and the Carolinas.

For instance, employees are monitoring the storm’s potential path and implementing early phases of the company’s storm plan. Duke also said that customers of its subsidiaries Progress Energy Florida and Progress Energy Carolinas should pay attention to the storm and review their own safety plans as well.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3058 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.