Disaster Response

Public power mutual aid efforts swing into action with Hurricane Michael

Mutual aid activities by public power utilities kicked into high gear prior to Hurricane Michael making landfall during the afternoon of Oct. 10, slamming into Florida as a Category 4 hurricane and packing maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour.

In a 4:30 p.m. EDT update on Oct. 10 on Hurricane Michael, the Department of Energy reported customer outage numbers as of 4:00 p.m. EDT for the following states: Alabama: 13,090 customer outages (0.7%); Florida: 263,317 customer outages (2.73%); and Georgia: 21,738 customer outages (0.52%).

Meanwhile, in a tweet late on the afternoon of Oct. 10, the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) provided an initial report on power outage numbers in Florida, noting in part that there were more than 192,000 customers out in the Florida Panhandle, with 63,000 from public power in the state.

Prior to landfall, public power utilities in Alabama, the Carolinas, Florida, and Georgia took a number of actions to prepare for Hurricane Michael. The Florida public power utilities of Tallahassee, Havana, Chattahoochee, Quincy, and Blountstown were in the immediate impact zone.

The American Public Power Association on Oct. 10 continued to monitor Hurricane Michael, with a Mutual Aid Playbook activation level 3 (regional event). The Association is also working with the rest of the energy industry and federal government partners to monitor the situation and organize help as needed.

In preparation for the storm, FMEA activated the American Public Power Association's mutual aid network and emergency power restoration crews and materials have been dispatched, as requested by affected entities.

FMEA Executive Director Amy Zubaly on Oct. 9 said that crews from public power utilities across Florida, Tennessee and Lafayette, Louisiana would be arriving in Tallahassee by Tuesday evening.

Additional crews from other public power utilities in Florida, as well as more than 200 personnel from Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas were planning to make their way toward Tallahassee for an arrival on Oct. 11, with many other utilities and states still gathering their available resources.

In an Oct. 10 morning update, FMEA said that through the American Public Power Association’s mutual aid network, FMEA had arranged for 440 power restoration personnel from 14 states to assist Florida public power communities following Hurricane Michael. Tree resources, including another 100 personnel and trucks, have also been secured, FMEA noted.

FMEA reported that assisting north Florida public power communities were crews from 60 public power and investor-owned utilities in the following states: Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Mississippi and Kentucky.

On Oct. 9, the Missouri Public Utility Alliance said that public power electric line crews from Missouri and Arkansas were on their way to Florida. Organized by the MPUA, line worker crews from nine Missouri cities and one Arkansas city were travelling to Tallahassee, preparing to respond to power outages after the storm passed.

MPUA said that the combined response of 47 line workers involves crews from the Missouri cities of Carthage, Columbia, Hannibal, Higginsville, Independence, Macon, Nixa, Poplar Bluff, and Waynesville. They were also joined by a crew from Conway, Arkansas. The workers will stage in Tallahassee, equipped with eight bucket trucks, seven digger trucks, and 11 other linework vehicles.

Preparedness coordinators for FMEA issued a call to MPUA for mutual aid assistance on Oct. 7, and the ten city crews departed for Florida the morning of Oct. 9. 

Meanwhile, Nebraska public power utility Lincoln Electric System reported on Oct. 9 that 14 LES employees with nine vehicles would report to Tallahassee. “Electric utilities in the path of the storm have been preparing for days, pre-staging restoration workers and equipment and coordinating preparation and response efforts with their state governments and local officials,” it noted.

LES crews will be joined by a six-man crew from fellow Nebraska public power utility Grand Island Utilities to provide mutual aid, LES said.

A total of 121 public power restoration personnel were on the ground in Tallahassee as of the morning of Oct. 10, FMEA reported. The remainder of the power restoration personnel will arrive in north Florida on Oct 11. Additional crews from Florida, Alabama and Tennessee were on standby and ready to deploy on Thursday for Quincy, Blountstown, Chattahoochee, Havana and Tallahassee if needed.

“Crews will begin any necessary power restoration efforts before Hurricane Michael’s landfall and will continue restoring power as long as conditions are safe. When conditions become unsafe, power restoration efforts will be temporarily suspended and will resume as soon as it safe to do so,” FMEA said.

The Northeast Public Power Association had 23 crews heading down to Tallahassee that were expected to arrive on Oct. 11.

Several crews from public power utilities in Ohio were also deployed. The City of Tipp City, Ohio, said in a tweet that its Municipal Electric Department employees and equipment, responding to a mutual aid request, were in route to Mobile, Alabama, to stage for Michael disaster recovery electric work in Tallahassee.

Ohio’s American Municipal Power also highlighted the fact that crews from Lebanon, Ohio, the City of Piqua, Ohio and Westerville, Ohio, were headed to Florida to offer mutual aid assistance.

AMP is the nonprofit wholesale power supplier and services provider to 135 members in nine states that serve more than 650,000 customers.

Kentucky public power utility Paducah Power System also sent a crew to Tallahassee prior to provide mutual aid assistance.

Florida utilities pitch in

Florida public power utilities were also sending crews prior to Michael’s landfall. The Orlando Utilities Commission on Oct. 9 said that 21 OUC employees and 17 trucks departed for Tallahassee ahead of Hurricane Michael’s landfall.

The crews include damage assessors with expertise in helping prioritize power restoration, as well as five, three-man line crews.

Key West, Florida-based Keys Energy Services said that it was sending six linemen to Tallahassee to assist with post-Hurricane Michael power restoration.

Florida's Kissimmee Utility Authority on Oct. 9 said that it had sent crews and equipment to Tallahassee to assist with storm restoration.

KUA deployed 10 linemen and a convoy of vehicles and supplies to Florida’s capital city where they will stage safely overnight as the city of Tallahassee prepared for storm landfall on Wednesday, KUA reported.

And Florida public power utility Ocala Electric Utility (OEU) said that 10 OEU employees would be heading to Tallahassee on Oct. 11 to help restore power. OEU is sending two construction bucket trucks, one digger derrick, two assist foreman trucks, and one service truck to aid in the restoration.

The Carolinas, Alabama

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Santee Cooper on Oct. 10 said its personnel continued to make preparations for the anticipated effects and tropical storm force winds that Hurricane Michael may have on Santee Cooper’s service territory and statewide transmission system.

Approximately two million South Carolinians depend on the state-owned electric and water utility as their power source, either directly or through the state’s electric cooperatives.

As of 3 p.m., Santee Cooper will be at Operating Condition 2 alert status, it said. This means a threat to Santee Cooper’s electric system is imminent or has occurred, but effects are limited or still uncertain. Santee Cooper’s Storm Center will be activated at 11 a.m. on Oct. 11.

ElectriCities of North Carolina reported that 25 cities had signed up with crews available to assist other states after the storm passes and damage assessment is done on Oct. 11, which would make them available on Friday, Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has declared a state of emergency, with significant damage expected for southeast Alabama just north of the Florida Panhandle. Some counties were expecting up to 50 percent outages and have pre-staged crews for response.

For regular updates on Hurricane Michael and details on Association mutual aid resources, click here.