Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Public power closes in on power restoration completion post-Florence

Public power entities in the Carolinas on Sept.19 reported significant progress has been made in restoring power to customers affected by Hurricane Florence, which hit the eastern seaboard on Sept. 14, bringing with it a wave of power outages, heavy rainfall and severe flooding.

“Florence was the first major challenge of the 2018 hurricane season for the electric grid and public power passed with flying colors,” said Michael Hyland, Senior Vice President, Engineering Services, at the American Public Power Association.

“Public power crews from several states were rolling out in trucks and headed to the Carolinas days before Florence made landfall, allowing for much quicker power restoration,” he said. “This is the latest example of how public power utilities can help other public power utilities in times of need through mutual aid.”

North Carolina

Michelle Vaught, vice-president of corporate communications for ElectriCities of North Carolina, provided an update in an email sent to Public Power Daily on Sept. 19.

She reported that as of Sept. 19, ElectriCities of North Carolina reported having less than 5,000 outages statewide.

She noted that the two hardest hit communities were New Bern and Fayetteville.

As of 4 p.m., Sept. 19, Fayetteville PWC reported that 442 customers remained without power. As a public power electric provider, they were able to respond to this emergency quickly, she noted. At the height of the storm, they had more than 50,000 customers without power and have now restored power to more than 97% of those who lost service. 

Vaught said that New Bern was reporting 93% of customers had been restored, with 1,469 still without power, as of the afternoon of Sept. 19.

When asked whether ElectriCities of North Carolina was still receiving mutual aid assistance from other public power utilities, Vaught said that New Bern and Fayetteville PWC still had crews helping them. Laurinburg had some crews that were going to be released Sept. 19.

ElectriCities of North Carolina reported that all transmission service has been restored to its members, with the last delivery point was restored at 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 18.

ElectriCities is a membership organization including public power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. ElectriCities also provides management services to the state's two municipal power agencies - North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 and North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency. 

South Carolina

In South Carolina, all Santee Cooper customers who can receive power have power, said Nicole Aiello, director of public relations for the state-owned public power utility, on Sept. 19.

“At our peak, Santee Cooper had just over 50,000 retail customers without power,” she noted in an email “We also had some transmission damage that resulted in outages for some of the electric cooperatives. Crews worked around the clock and restoration efforts were essentially completed by the end of the day Monday.”

When asked about any updates on the work that transmission crews were doing to address damage on the system, she said that “All of our transmission delivery points were hot on Saturday. Crews were able to address damage and complete our transmission work on the system by Sunday afternoon.”

“We are no longer receiving mutual aid assistance,” she noted in the email. “We are, however, grateful for the assistance we got from the mutual aid crews after Hurricane Florence. With their help, we were able to quickly and safely restore power to customers. It is reassuring to know that when an emergency threatens our customers and our community, utilities and their employees work together in a united front. We appreciate their help.”

Latest DOE figures

In a situation report issued the morning of Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that there were 199,972 customer outages in North Carolina, a decrease of 33.6 percent from the last report, while in South Carolina, there were 657 customer outages, a decrease of 66.6 percent from the last report.

Mutual aid network

The Association, together with state and regional public power utilities and organizations, coordinates the mutual aid network for the nation’s public power utilities.

Utilities that want to give and get help for power restoration after a disaster sign up for this network. When (and even before) a major disaster hits a utility’s territory and the utility knows that its own crews and equipment won’t be enough to restore power quickly, it calls for mutual aid. It provides its best estimate of how many people it needs and what type of skills they should have.

The utility also specifies equipment and material needs. Other utilities in the network respond with what they can offer. The actual dispatch and movement of crews from different utilities is coordinated by utility and public power association personnel who volunteer as regional and national mutual aid coordinators.

For additional information about the mutual aid network, click here.