Electric power restoration during a pandemic is expected to be a challenge. Isaias may be the kind of experience that utility companies can use as a major learning experience to test pandemic-era emergency processes. Isaias was not a monster storm. Isaias was big enough to provide a real test.
“COVID-19 will impact how the crews and staff work together in the restoration process and may cause restoration to take longer,” said … a spokeswoman for Fayetteville Public Works Commission. She said it is “safe to say” that the company expects power outages “but it is hard to predict what kind they may be.” (Source)
Carteret County (NC) News reported, Tuesday morning “According to online outage maps from Duke Energy and Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative, around 7,300 customers collectively were without power at about 9:45 a.m., down from more than 10,000 outages reported earlier in the morning. Both power companies said they mobilized crews as soon as it was safe to do so Tuesday morning to begin restoring power to customers. Some crews came from out of state to assist.”
That quick drop in outages may be considered a good sign. Crews have been placed to act as fast and safe as possible.
Utilities are doing their normal good planning. They are adapting to the new situation. Consumers now have to respond. In the future, consumers need to be prepared for storm outages that may be longer than the past. After all, we are off to a fast start in the hurricane season, so there may be more storms, and more powerful storms to come.
CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin says, “It means everyone living in hurricane-prone communities must be ready to be without power longer following a major hurricane. Just as important is adding hand sanitizer and face masks to a storm-preparedness checklist, as well as checking with local emergency management officials for changes to shelters and evacuation orders due to the coronavirus.”
Power companies have to find a delicate balance in dual disasters. They have to restore power to customers as quickly as possible following a storm and not sacrifice safety of their employees for speed. In the case of power restoration, keeping many employees distanced is a challenge.
Duke Energy provides its planning for this unusual storm season this year here.
Feature image from Duke Energy news story. Crews preparing to respond to the storm.