Thousands remain without power following Hurricane Michael

The New York Times on Oct. 11 reported that at least four deaths were linked to Hurricane Michael – which is now a tropical storm – in Gadsden County, Fla., and according to an Oct. 11 statement posted on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s website, there were 400,666 power outages in Florida as of 9 a.m., due to the storm.

More than 19,000 power restoration personnel are ready to respond, the statement noted, adding that prior to the hurricane’s impact, Scott called on every local government to confirm their mutual aid agreements between investor-owned utilities, municipals, and co-ops are in place and effective.

The statement also noted that the State Emergency Response Team estimates that more than 375,000 Floridians were ordered to evacuate, and that currently, there are 38 shelters open.

A major disaster declaration for Hurricane Michael was issued by President Donald Trump following the governor’s request, according to the statement.

Gulf Power, in a separate Oct. 11 statement, said that while crews restored power to more than 25,000 customers without power in the wake of Hurricane Michael, much work remains to be done in the Panama City, Fla., area. Power is fully restored to all customers in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties, the company said, adding that its crews, as well as more than 3,000 crews from around the country, are arriving to the Panama City area to begin the restoration and rebuilding process.

As noted in an Oct. 10 Gulf Power statement, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Panama City on Oct. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane.

Duke Energy on Oct. 11 said that 80% or more of its customers in Bay, Franklin, Gulf, Jefferson and Wakulla counties in Florida lost power on Oct. 10 due to the storm, which brought winds of 155 mph and a historic storm surge that demolished or severely damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other structures.

An estimated total of 31,000 Duke Energy Florida customers lost power due to the hurricane, the company said, adding that damage assessment and repairs to the electric system are underway in areas that crews are able to access.

The storm damaged numerous electric transmission and distribution facilities, including substations, utility poles, power lines and other key system components – all of which will need to be replaced or repaired before power can be restored to individual homes and businesses, Duke Energy said.

The company said that its aerial and ground assessment in heavily damaged, hard-to-reach areas will determine where the company will deploy repair crews and equipment, and how long repairs will take. Duke Energy also said that its first priority is restoring power to the surviving critical infrastructure – local emergency centers, police and fire stations, hospitals, water treatment plants, other public health and safety facilities, as well as schools.

Florida Power & Light (FPL) on Oct. 9 said that it was prepositioning more than 1,350 employees and contractors along the West Coast and the northern parts of the company’s service area, to restore power to customers that may be affected. FPL said that it is also opening staging sites, which position crews and critical equipment and supplies near the hardest hit areas. 

According to an Oct. 11 Tropical Storm Michael public advisory by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Hurricane Center, at 2 p.m., the center of Tropical Storm Michael was located near latitude 35.7 North, longitude 80.0 West. Michael is moving toward the northeast near 23 mph and that motion is expected to continue with an increase in forward speed through the night of Oct. 11, the public advisory noted; a turn toward the east-northeast at an even faster forward speed is expected on Oct. 12 and 13.

“On the forecast track, the center of Michael will continue to move across central and eastern North Carolina today, move across southeastern Virginia this evening, and move into the western Atlantic Ocean tonight,” the public advisory said.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher gusts, primarily over water south and east of the center, the public advisory said, adding that little change in strength is expected on Oct. 11, with the strongest winds primarily spreading northward along the coast of the Carolinas. Michael is forecast to intensify as it becomes a post-tropical low over the Atlantic late in the night of Oct. 11, the public advisory said.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles, mainly to the south and east of the center, the public advisory said. A wind gust of 55 mph was recently reported at North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a wind gust to 49 mph has been reported at Wilmington, N.C., the public advisory noted.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, in an Oct. 11 statement, said: “For North Carolina, Michael isn’t as bad as [Hurricane] Florence, but it adds unwelcomed insult to injury, so we must be on alert. If you have to travel, slow down and leave extra space between your car and others. And never drive through standing or rushing water, or around road barricades."

The statement noted that flash flooding is Michael’s greatest threat to the state, though North Carolina will also see impacts from minor to moderate river flooding in the Haw, Tar and Rocky rivers; gusty winds; possible tornadoes; and coastal flooding.

As of 4 p.m., on Oct. 11, there were 340,645 power outages in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s website.

According to an Oct. 11 South Carolina Emergency Management Division statement, as of Oct. 11, there are about 92,000 power outages statewide; the South Carolina Department of Social Services and the American Red Cross are operating nine shelters with 97 occupants; and 21 county emergency operations centers are operational, with many expected to close on Oct. 11.

Duke Energy, in an Oct. 10 statement, said that it projects that the storm could cause 300,000 to 500,000 power outages in North Carolina and South Carolina, based on the storm’s forecast track. Nearly 6,000 workers – including power line technicians, damage assessors and tree specialists – are ready to respond to the storm’s impact in the Carolinas, the company said, adding that restoring power after a storm can be extremely challenging for repair crews, as travel and work conditions can be hampered by high winds and flooding.

Work cannot begin until the storm has passed and repair crews can safely access damaged areas, the company said, noting that for worker safety, line technicians do not perform elevated work in bucket trucks when winds are higher than 35 miles per hour.

According to an Oct. 10 statement posted on Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s website, acting on a recommendation from the state’s Emergency Operations Command, Deal on Oct. 10 expanded the emergency declaration to an additional 16 counties; the state of emergency now includes 108 counties in Georgia. Deal also activated 1,500 Georgia Guardsmen to be placed on standby and deployed as needed to areas affected by the storm, according to the statement.

Also, according to an Oct. 8 statement posted on Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s website, Ivey issued a statewide State of Emergency on Oct. 8 in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds and heavy rain associated with Hurricane Michael.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Oct. 11 declared a state of emergency in anticipation of impacts from the storm, according to a statement posted on the governor’s website.

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About Corina Rivera-Linares 3235 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.