Public power utility crews arrived in Florida and other parts of the Southeast over the past several days in advance of Hurricane Dorian making landfall in the U.S. Other out of state crews were on standby as the ultimate trajectory of the system remained unclear as of Monday morning.
Dorian slammed into the Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 1 with winds of 185 miles per hour and continued to hammer the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on Sept. 2.
“Hurricane Dorian has now stalled, continuing its Category 5 siege of the northwestern Bahamas, but will track dangerously close to a long swath of the East Coast from Florida to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and southeastern Virginia this week,” the Weather Channel reported on Sept. 2.
The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) on Aug. 31 said that as Dorian approached the mainland U.S., electric companies, electric cooperatives, and public power utilities in the path of the storm had activated their emergency response plans and were pre-positioning workers and equipment in the areas most likely to be hit by the storm.
As of Aug. 31, crews from at least 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada had been offered, and all pre-staging resource needs had been met, the ESCC said.
“Due to the uncertain track of the storm, mutual assistance networks continue to stage and reposition crews that are ready to deploy to the areas impacted by Hurricane Dorian,” the ESCC noted.
The CEO-led ESCC, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are coordinating closely to support the ongoing preparation and staging activities, as well as the movement of mutual assistance crews. The ESCC on Aug. 30 held a coordination call with senior leadership from DOE and DHS to discuss the preparations for Dorian and to ensure that industry and government efforts are aligned.
“Mutual assistance networks have deployed crews to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, and we stand ready to provide more assistance to help get the power back on in affected communities as quickly and safely as possible,” said American Public Power Association President and CEO Sue Kelly. “Ensuring the safety of customers, communities, and crews is the electric power industry’s highest priority.”
Public power utilities send crews in advance of Dorian
In coordination with the American Public Power Association, public power utilities from various parts of the country have sent crews to Florida and the Southeast in advance of Dorian’s arrival.
FMEA activates mutual aid network
The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) on Aug. 30 said that it had activated its national mutual aid network and was lining up crews to restore power to areas that will be affected by Dorian.
“Currently, Florida public power has received commitments from approximately 1,500 lineworkers from 20 states, including some from as far away as Minnesota, Wisconsin and New England,” FMEA said. Some of these crews will be pre-positioned outside the state and once the all-clear is given, they will begin to move into the impacted communities.
These crews will be joining the more than 6,000 employees, including 1,000 lineworkers, from Florida’s 33 public power communities, all of whom will be working around the clock before, during and after the storm.
“Public power communities pull together in times of need and we are so thankful to have the support of communities not just in our own state, but from across the country,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA executive Director. “With their help, we will be able to work together to restore power quickly and safely to as many people as possible as we have during previous years’ storms.”
An 18-man contingent of line technicians and supervisory staff from the Nebraska Public Power District hit the road on the morning of Friday, Aug. 30, to Florida.
At the request of the American Public Power Association, NPPD crews will assist in restoration work for the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), a public power utility. The contingent from NPPD will 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.
Municipal utility line crews from Missouri and Arkansas have also deployed to Orlando. Organized by the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, 47 utility workers from nine Missouri cities and one city in Arkansas are ready to assist with restoration efforts.
The combined response of utility workers involves lineworker crews from the Missouri cities of Carthage, Columbia, Hannibal, Higginsville, Hermann, Independence, Odessa, Poplar Bluff, and Rolla, plus a crew from Conway, Arkansas.
In addition, Kansas Municipal Utilities has deployed a nine-man crew to Orlando and the Northeast Public Power Association and the Michigan Municipal Electric Association have also sent crews to Orlando.
The OUC has activate its storm center, which includes details on what the utility is doing, as well as tips for what customers should be doing prior to Dorian’s arrival.
New Smyrna, Fort Pierce, Kissimmee, Gainesville, Ocala
Meanwhile, another Nebraska public power utility, Lincoln Electric System (LES), is deploying staff and vehicles to New Smyrna Beach, Fla. after a request for mutual aid to the FMEA in Tallahassee was canceled due to updated weather forecasts. The Utilities Commission, City of New Smyrna Beach requested help with anticipated power restoration efforts due to Dorian.
Alabama public power utility Riviera Utilities has sent a 22-man crew to Fort Pierce, Fla. to help with Dorian recovery efforts.
In response to a call from Kissimmee, Fla., a public power city, the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association marshalled a group of municipal electric crews to send to Florida. Along with coordinating Minnesota’s municipal response, the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association is providing two safety staff people to serve as crew leads.
Ohio’s American Municipal Power has deployed crews to Ocala, Fla., while several Tennessee public power utilities have sent crews to Gainesville, Fla.: Cleveland Utilities, Morristown Utility, Sevier County Electric System and Lenoir City Utilities.
Austin Energy reported on Sept. 2 that 27 of its employees left for Florida to help Jacksonville Electric Authority in JEA’s recovery efforts. Austin Energy said it had 10 bucket trucks and numerous other heavy duty equipment in tow.
Georgia, South Carolina governors issue executive orders
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster recently issued an executive order in which he ordered the evacuation of coastal South Carolina residents for their personal safety as Dorian approaches.
Ahead of Dorian, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued two executive orders to declare a state of emergency in twelve counties and suspend restrictions on hours of commercial vehicle operation and vehicle height, weight, and length thresholds to assist in storm preparation, response, and recovery.
Two Tennessee public power utilities – Benton County Electric System and Loudon Utilities -- have sent crews to Albany, Ga., in advance of Dorian.
Association Mutual Aid Working Group conference calls
The Association is holding daily Mutual Aid Working Group conference calls related to Dorian planning.
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 DOE.
More information and updates will be posted to the Association’s Storm Center at www.PublicPower.org/StormCenter.