Public power utilities in Florida and elsewhere are taking a number of steps to prepare for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Ian this week.
“While things remain fluid as to where and when Hurricane Ian will make landfall, Florida public power is likely to be impacted regardless,” noted Amy Zubaly, Executive Director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) on Sept. 26.
She said that FMEA is in daily communication with all of Florida’s public power communities to discuss their anticipated needs in advance of and following the storm.
“As the statewide mutual aid coordinator, we have already activated the national mutual aid network through APPA to line up additional resources for affected communities and are in the midst of coordinating those efforts now,” Zubaly said.
“We currently have crews from as far away as New England, Minnesota, Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma lined up to provide us with assistance once the storm moves through and conditions are safe to begin restoration work. And we are working closely with our state Emergency Operations Center to make sure we have the most current information on the storm. FMEA greatly appreciates all the public power utilities from around the country who are offering up assistance,” she said.
"Currently, we have more than 500 mutual aid line resources from 18 states committed to assisting with restoration efforts and we are continuing to work on securing additional resources. We have personnel who are arriving in advance of the storm and are pre-staging so they can enter impacted areas post-storm once conditions are safe while the remainder will arrive immediately following the storm," she said on Sept. 27.
Florida public power utility Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) on Sept. 26 said that in anticipation of a potential impact from Hurricane Ian, it has activated its Emergency Operations Plan.
The utility said it was operating at Alert Level 3 and will advance to Alert Level 4 once the storm is within 24 hours of impacting its 85-square mile service territory in Osceola County.
Mutual aid crews from Minnesota are currently on standby to provide assistance with potential restoration efforts, KUA said. Once the storm passes, our crews will begin their damage assessment analysis to determine if additional assistance is needed.
Key West, Fla-based public power utility Keys Energy Services said it is prepared to restore service as quickly as possible if facilities are damaged by Ian. Restoration efforts will begin as soon as winds diminish.
KEYS has established priorities for storm restoration that are intended to emphasize health, safety, and essential community services and to restore service in a manner that will affect the greatest number of customers first, it said.
Line and electrical crews will be in the field working until winds exceed 35 miles per hour. At that time, all crews will be called in from the field. If power outages occur at this time, KEYS will not attempt to restore power. All restoration will take place when the storm has passed.
Essential utility employees will be on standby to begin the restoration process immediately after winds diminish.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Santee Cooper team members are making preparations for the anticipated effects that Hurricane Ian may have on Santee Cooper’s service territory.
Approximately 2 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 noon Sept. 26, Santee Cooper went to Operating Condition (OpCon) 4 alert status. This means there is a possible threat to Santee Cooper’s electric system, but effects may be limited or uncertain.
At OpCon 4, the utility is primarily:
- Checking and fueling vehicles, including line trucks.
- Making sure communications equipment is in proper working order.
- Taking inventory and procuring supplies as needed, such as utility poles, electric transformers and associated equipment.
Public Power Utility Crews Head to Florida
Public power utility electric line crews from Missouri and Arkansas are on their way to Florida, to perform recovery work in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
Organized by the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, lineworker crews from 13 utilities are traveling to Orlando, where they will be dispatched to Florida municipal utilities that need electric restoration after the storm passes.
The combined response of 57 lineworkers involves crews from the Missouri cities of Carthage, Chillicothe, Hannibal, Higginsville, Independence, Macon, Nixa, Odessa, Palmyra, Poplar Bluff, and Springfield. They are also joined by a crew from Conway, Arkansas, and a crew from MPUA Resource Services Corporation in Columbia. The workers will be equipped with more than 50 utility work vehicles, including bucket trucks, digger derrick trucks, and other linework vehicles.
Municipal utility workers from other states are also on the road to Florida to assist in hurricane recovery efforts. The lineworkers’ Florida arrival is timed to be ahead of anticipated hurricane impacts on the Florida Gulf coast.
Preparedness coordinators for FMEA issued a call to the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA) for mutual aid assistance on Sept. 23, and the crews departed for Florida the morning of Sept. 27.
The mutual aid response is coordinated through MPUA’s mutual aid network. Assisting cities are reimbursed by the municipal utilities receiving assistance.
President Biden Declares Emergency
President Biden on Sept. 24 declared that an emergency exists in the state of Florida and ordered Federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Tropical Storm Ian beginning on September 23, 2022 and continuing.
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
Deanne Criswell, FEMA’s Administrator, named Thomas J. McCool as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
AccuWeather said on Sept. 26 that Ian was forecast to undergo rapid intensification and become a powerful Category 4 hurricane Tuesday into Wednesday. But as it inches closer to Florida, it is forecast to weaken to a Category 2 hurricane, it said.