Cooperation among utilities, restoration efforts continue following Hurricane Irma

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee and NERC President and CEO Gerry Cauley, in a Sept. 12 statement, said they encourage the ongoing inter-utility cooperation among utilities in response to Hurricane Irma, which they said “devastated Florida and Georgia, neighboring states, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories in the Caribbean.”

As reported, Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the Lower Florida Keys on the morning of Sept. 10, a couple of weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas, on Aug. 25.

“The Hurricane Irma response likely will be among the largest industry restoration efforts in U.S. history,” Chatterjee and Cauley said in their statement, in part. “Utility industry vegetation and line crews have traveled to the region in large numbers from across the country and Canada.”

NERC vegetation management requirements under Reliability Standard FAC-003-4 – Vegetation Management provide flexibility in how utilities manage their programs and is not prescriptive with regard to specific milestones or dates, they said. The requirements generally contemplate the possibility of modifications to a utility’s annual work plan to respond to conditions such as identified unanticipated high priority work and crew or contractor availability due in part to mutual assistance agreements for helping after events such as hurricanes, they said.

“Using our regulatory discretion, we will consider the actions of entities assisting others from the impacts of Hurricane Irma to be positive and to not negatively impact compliance considerations with respect to Reliability Standard FAC-003-4 Vegetation Management,” they said.

In a separate Sept. 12 statement, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn said: “The industry’s Irma response is one of the largest and most complex power restoration efforts in U.S. history. Today alone, the number of workers dedicated to the Irma response grew by almost 10,000 as initial damage assessments were completed. Now, almost 60,000 workers from more than 250 investor-owned electric companies, public power utilities, and electric cooperatives – from across the United States and Canada – are supporting the Irma restoration efforts.” 

EEI said that as it did throughout Hurricane Harvey, EEI and the electric power industry are working through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) to coordinate with the federal government, other segments of the industry, and critical infrastructure operators.

Among other things, EEI said that it is important to remember that outages measure customer meters impacted, not the number of individuals without power; as Irma unfolded, some customers experienced more than one outage.

According to a 4 p.m., EDT, Sept. 13 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Infrastructure Security & Energy RestorationHurricane Irma & Hurricane Harvey Event Summary (Report #30),” Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10 moved across the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm before making a landfall near Marco Island, Fla., as a Category 3 and moving up the Florida peninsula and into Georgia. As of Sept. 13, the remnants of Irma continue to dissipate and move northwestward across the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, the report noted.

According to the report, as of 2:30 p.m., EDT, on Sept. 13, there were about 3.6 million customer outages – 35% of total state customers – in Florida; 451,033 customer outages – 11% of total state customers – in Georgia; 58,972 customer outages – 2% of total state customers – in South Carolina; 24,445 customer outages in North Carolina; and 117,244 customer outages – 8% of total customers – in Puerto Rico.

Among other things, the report discussed the oil and natural gas sector, noting that as of 2:30 p.m., EDT, on Sept. 13, several ports have reopened, including Port Everglades, Jacksonville, and Tampa.

According to a separate Sept. 13 statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, as of 12 p.m., there were more than 3.7 million accounts without power, and since the afternoon of Sept. 11, power has been restored to 3 million homes and businesses.

According to the governor’s statement, in total:

  • 4.4 million Florida Power & Light (FPL) customers were impacted by the storm
  • More than 1 million Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) customers were impacted by the storm
  • 425,000 of Tampa Electric’s 730,000 customers were impacted by the storm

In a Sept. 12 statement, NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) subsidiary FPL said that it has restored service to slightly more than 2 million customers within the first day of Hurricane Irma’s exit from its service territory, and that about 2.3 million customers remained without power.

FPL said that it has a restoration workforce of more than 20,000, including FPL employees, along with workers from contracting companies and its partner utilities from almost 30 states and Canada.

FPL said that it “estimates that it will have restored power to essentially all of its customers along the East Coast service territory by the end of this coming weekend, and for its customers along its West Coast service territory by end of day Sept. 22, with the possible exception of areas impacted by tornadoes, severe flooding and other sections of severe damage.”

In a separate Sept. 12 statement, Duke Energy said that it has restored power to more than 375,000 customers in Florida, and that as of mid-day on Sept. 12, an estimated 1 million customers were without power. The company said that it expects to complete power restoration to essentially all of its Florida customers in these areas:

  • By midnight on Sept. 15 – The western portion of its service area, including Pinellas and Pasco counties
  • By midnight on Sept. 17 – Central and northern portions of the service area, including, among others, Alachua, Bay, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lake, Madison, Orange, Polk, Seminole, Taylor, Volusia, and Wakulla counties

Restoration in the severely impacted areas of Hardee and Highlands County may extend beyond Sept. 17 due to rebuilding the electrical system that suffered significant damage in those areas, the company said.

Separately on Sept. 12, Duke said that it expects to restore power to almost all North Carolina and South Carolina customers by late Sept. 15. The company said that it has so far restored power to 160,000 customers in both states.

In a separate Sept. 12 statement, Tampa Electric, an Emera company, said that at the peak of the storm, 335,000 customers remained without power. Power has been restored to 170,000 customers, or about 40% of those affected, the company said.

Due to the magnitude of the storm and the significant rebuilding required, restoration will require more than 280,000 man-hours of work, the company said, adding that about 3,200 line, tree, and other workers from other utilities from the Midwest, Northeast and Canada continued to arrive to assist Tampa Electric.

The company said that it expects to restore power to essentially all customers by the night of Sept. 17.

According to Scott’s Sept. 13 statement, more than 160 shelters are open throughout Florida, with a total population of more than 21,000 individuals. Also, more than 60 special needs shelters are open, with a total population of more than 10,000 individuals. The statement added that information about available shelters can be found here.

The Associated Press reported that eight patients at a Florida “nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning,” and added: “Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 17 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm had passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Sept. 12 announced that all evacuation orders have been lifted for residents of the eight barrier islands previously evacuated. According to a Sept. 11 statement from McMaster’s office, there were more than 140,000 power outages across the state with the largest number of outages concentrated in Charleston, Beaufort, Berkeley, Lexington, and Richland counties.

SCANA (NYSE:) subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), for instance, on Sept. 13 said that more than 154,000 customers were without power at the peak of the storm on the evening of Sept. 11, and that more than 140,000 of those had been restored by late Sept. 12. As of 10:30 a.m., on Sept. 13, fewer than 11,000 customers were still without power, with about 75% of those in the hardest hit areas of Charleston and Beaufort counties, the company said.

According to a separate Sept. 13 statement, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal will tour areas impacted by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 14. According to a separate statement from Deal’s office, the governor on Sept. 12 lifted the mandatory evacuation order for six coastal counties.

Southern Company (NYSE:SO) subsidiary Georgia Power, in a Sept. 13 statement, said that its teams have restored power to more than 300,000 customers impacted by Hurricane Irma in metro Atlanta. As of the afternoon of Sept. 13, less than 150,000 customers remain without power in metro Atlanta, and work continues to restore power to all impacted customers as quickly and safely as possible, the company said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3056 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.