Public power utilities in Florida are laying the groundwork for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which could become a Category 3 hurricane in the next several days and make landfall on Labor Day as a Category 4 hurricane.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Aug. 28 declared a state of emergency for counties in the path of Dorian. By declaring a state of emergency, DeSantis is ensuring that state and local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to prepare.
The State Emergency Operations Center activated to a Level 2 on Thursday morning, Aug. 29, enhancing the coordination between federal, state and local emergency management agencies.
“While the forecast is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Hurricane Dorian will continue to strengthen and have a significant impact on Florida,” said Amy Zubaly, Executive Director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, on Aug. 29.
“We have been in communication with all of Florida’s public power communities to discuss their needs following the storm and have already activated our national mutual aid network to line up additional resources for affected communities. Our coordination efforts will continue right up until landfall and we expect additional utilities to answer the call for support.”
Zubaly is one of the network coordinators for Region IV, which along with Georgia, Florida and Alabama, covers Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
A network coordinator serves as the point of contact for a group of participating mutual aid utilities or in rare situations, a large or isolated utility. Network coordinators may be part of a state association, joint action agency or public power utility.
Chris Gent, Director of Corporate Communications at Florida’s Kissimmee Utility Authority, said KUA’s internal logistics meetings began Tuesday, Aug. 27, “and we’ve put all employees on notice to be available for the holiday weekend.”
KUA activated its emergency storm plan on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
“We’ve also requested to be placed in the queue for mutual aid assistance with the possibility of doing some pre-staging of outside crews prior to storm landfall, if needed. We will make that decision” over the next 24 hours, he noted in an Aug. 29 email.
“We have contract tree trimming crews riding out the circuits looking for potential tree and tree limb issues that can be addressed prior to the storm,” he said.
In addition, KUA has begun making logistical plans to house and feed any visiting mutual aid crews.
Gent noted that KUA is also doing load tests on facility generators, topping off fuel levels in all vehicles and ensuring substations and power plants are clear of any potential projectiles.
The utility has also been doing a lot advance communication with customers.
Nebraska public power utilities prepare to send crews
Public power utilities in Nebraska on Aug. 29 noted that they planned to send crews to Florida in advance of Dorian’s landfall.
Lincoln Electric System initially said that 14 LES employees with eight vehicles would report to Tallahassee, Florida and that Nebraska’s Grand Island Utilities would also be sending six employees and three vehicles who will be traveling with the LES response team.
LES crews were expected to deploy at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30.
But on the evening of Aug. 29, LES said that due to the erratic nature of the storm, landfall models had shifted and LES crews would not be departing Friday. “The situation is currently being assessed and we will send updates as we learn more information,” the utility said.
In 2018, LES crews contributed to restoration efforts in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael, working in the Tallahassee area. “The desire to assist other utilities is always balanced by the need to be ready for adverse events that may take place at home in the Lincoln area due to weather or other catastrophic events,” LES noted.
Meanwhile, an 18-man contingent of line technicians and supervisory staff from Nebraska Public Power District will be hitting the road Friday morning, Aug. 30, journeying to Florida in anticipation of restoring expected power outages from Dorian.
At the request of the American Public Power Association, NPPD crews will assist in restoration work for the Orlando Utilities Commission, a public power utility. The NPPD crews were asked to arrive prior to the hurricane making landfall so that once the storm has passed the power restoration process can begin. OUC serves approximately 225,000 customers.
The contingent from NPPD will also be utilizing 18 vehicles, including a digger truck, two small bucket trucks and two large bucket trucks, five pickups, plus trailers and all terrain utility vehicles. Including six days of travel to and from Orlando, the crews are expected to be out of state for approximately two weeks.
Line technicians from Plattsmouth, Geneva, York, O’Neill, Norfolk, Ogallala, Atkinson, Creighton, Hartington, Scottsbluff, Chadron, and Lexington will make the journey. Crews are expected to arrive Sunday in Orlando.
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico managed to avoid a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian on Aug. 28 but hammered the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“As Dorian passed by Puerto Rico with heavy wind gusts, residents were dealt steady rain showers and power outages. While the area largely avoided the worst-case scenario, many were still impacted by localized flooding,” AccuWeather reported on Aug. 29.
The Department of Energy reported that as of 8:00 a.m. EDT August 29, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) reported 7,430 customer outages in Puerto Rico, scattered across the Islands. Vieques and Culebra, which were directly impacted, are reporting no significant power outages at this time.
The Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority reported 7,873 customer outages across St. Thomas and St. John as of 8:00 a.m. EDT, August 29, the DOE said. Power was fully restored to St. Croix as of 7:20 PM EDT August 28.
In preparation for Dorian, PREPA and the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority actively engaged the American Public Power Association’s mutual aid process and were prepared to assess any potential damage to their electric systems and, if necessary, seek resources and/or assistance.
Association Mutual Aid Working Group conference calls
The Association on Aug. 28 began its daily Mutual Aid Working Group conference calls and has been in close communication with both the US Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority as well as PREPA regarding current resource availability.
In addition, member utilities and joint action agencies in the Southeast are beginning preparedness efforts and planning for anticipated resource needs based on the forecast track.
Along with the Mutual Aid Working Group calls, the Association’s Mutual Aid Team continues to coordinate with industry partners at the Edison Electric Institute and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, as well as the Department of Energy.
More information and updates will be posted to the Association’s Storm Center at www.PublicPower.org/StormCenter.