Utilities across the US states of Florida and North and South Carolina have been making extensive preparations ahead of the now Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, expected to make landfall on Tuesday.
The storm left a wake of devastation on the Bahamian island of Great Abaco on Sunday according to Insider reports, with winds gusting at speeds of up to 220mph, increasing the storm’s severity rating from Category 4, to Category 5, and initial reports indicating extreme flooding, one person dead, and citizens being warned to stay indoors by the US’ National Hurricane Centre (NHC) amongst others.
Forecasts on Sunday indicated that the storm will not make landfall on Florida’s east coast, as previously predicted, but will now likely hit the Georgian and Carolina’s coast, with meteorologists warning of “the risk of strong winds and (a) life-threatening storm surge” increasing throughout the middle of the week.
Meteorologists have warned to keep a weather eye on further forecasts as the path could still shift.
US utilities have been quick to respond to news of the storm with utilities including Florida Light & Power (FPL), TECO People’s Gas, Tampa Electric, and Duke Energy all preparing both advance crews and supplies in an effort to keep the lights on, or get them back on as soon as possible.
Utilities from surrounding states also deployed additional work crews to support resiliency efforts, including Louisville Gas and Electric Company, and its sister firm, Kentucky Utilities, as well as crews from Nebraska and the Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin.
US President Donald Trump approved a state of emergency declaration for Florida on Friday morning, in anticipation of the storm, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief.
FPL geared up its emergency response plan on Thursday, with nearly 13,000 employees and personnel standing by to help restore power.
According to a report from the South Florida Sun’s Marcia Heroux Pounds, FPL has invested almost $4 billion in grid reinforcement and preparation over the last 13 years. These came into play in 2017, when in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which saw over 4.2 million residential and business customers left without power, 50% of customers had power restored within a day.
“It took FPL 10 days to restore customers after Irma, which was a widespread storm in the state. But 50% of its customers were restored within one day, which FPL attributes to improving its grid,” she wrote.
Technology has improved since Irma, Kevin Spear reported in the Orlando Sentinel.
Kevin Spear, reporting in the Orlando Sentinel noted “Leaders of the region’s largest utilities — Orlando Utilities Commission, Duke Energy, and Florida Power & Light Company — say the organizations learned significant lessons from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and are better prepared with outage-reporting systems, damage forecasting, and staging of crews and materials,”
The utility has established 100 working sites across Florida for crews, materials and vehicles.
FPL spokesman Tyler Mauldin explained told the Orlando Sentinel’s Kevin Spear that “They can be opened within 24 hours after a storm’s passing.”
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