Hurricane Florence

Utilities in the Carolinas brace for an unpredictable storm

Hurricane season is upon us again, and a new region is threatened this September. The Carolinas, which were last impacted severely by Hurricane Matthew in 2015, evacuated coastal areas earlier this week expecting an overnight landfall of Hurricane Florence in the early hours of Thursday morning.

As many EA subscribers are well aware, electromechanical companies, OEMs, utilities, and repair operations are often directly affected by these unpredictable weather events. Last year, it was the Gulf—from metro Houston where Hurricane Harvey brought inundation and distress, to Florida where multiple systems battered the coastline and forced mass evacuations and emergencies scarcely seen even in on a familiar peninsula. 2017 also saw a tragedy that will long be remembered in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is still, a year later, regaining its electricity and infrastructure after Hurricane Maria wiped out most of the island and aid was hard to facilitate. Many other islands, such as Dominica and Saint Maarten, are enduring the arduous process of rebuilding. A summary of one of the most severe hurricane seasons on record can be seen below:

Florence, meanwhile, presents new challenges still. Preparations for storms of this magnitude prove difficult to navigate, and this particular “cone” has been shifty beyond recognition. As of late Wednesday, reports suggested the storm was still at a Category 3 magnitude, but it included a befuddling slow-down and predicitions that it could change direction and hover along the Southeast coastline of the U.S. As USA Today reported Wednesday night, this unprecedented movement creates a conundrum for stormcasters and residents alike. Instead of roaring ashore and quickly heading inland and weakening, as most storms do, Hurricane Florence should instead “stall near the coast and then parallel southwestward toward Georgia,” Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Postel said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The prospect of mass evacuations, meanwhile, can have an effect on areas well outside the range of danger. The Magnolia Reporter of Magnolia, Arkansas produced an article ruminating on its experiences with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 in preparation for the potential of influx of evacuees from two sides this year, all the while preparing for the storms itself.

Power outages associated with the Category 4 storm could last for days or weeks in the Carolinas, Duke Energy officials told Utility Dive. Flooding could also affect regional power plants, like in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew flooded cooling ponds at Duke Energy’s Lee coal plant. The utilities publication said additional issues come from the unlined coal ash pits in the Carolinas and Virginia. Duke and Dominion Energy still have several of these facilities along the coast and inland that leave communities vulnerable to potential flooding or leaks.



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