You can’t stop a hurricane’s rain and winds, but you can be ready for it.
That’s why Duke Energy is improving the electric grid across its six-state territory and especially in the coastal areas of Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina, which get battered by hurricanes.
The work includes trimming trees that can fall on power lines, upgrading electric poles and lines, and protecting substations from flooding.
It’s especially important with Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1. Experts forecast another active season, following the record 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes of 2020.
Despite pre-season outlooks indicating another active year, Duke meteorologists do not anticipate another hyper-active year like 2020. Duke Energy meteorologists forecast 20 storms and nine hurricanes for 2021, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts 13 to 20 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes.
So making the grid stronger to withstand storms and more resilient to bounce back will get the power restored quicker for customers.
“The idea is if you can reduce the number of outages customers experience after a storm, and add more tools to restore those outages faster, then that frees up crews and resources that can help other customers and communities when they need us most,” said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks.
The company has completed many improvements in the Carolinas ahead of hurricane season, including converting more than 100 wooden transmission poles to steel poles in Brunswick County, N.C., and strengthening poles at Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach to withstand hurricane-force winds. If the pole can withstand a Category 3 hurricane, it can potentially stay in service longer and is easier to restore power because lineworkers don’t have to replace it.
In Florida, a multiyear grid protection effort is equipping the power system to resist severe storms. The company is also installing smart equipment and self-healing technology that can automatically detect power outages and restore service faster.
Self-healing technology helped to avoid nearly 600,000 extended customer outages in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida in 2020, saving more than 1 million hours of total outage time. Over the next few years, Duke Energy expects to install enough self-healing technology to serve most customers.
To report a power outage: duke-energy.com, the Duke Energy mobile app, text OUT to 57801 or call the automated outage-reporting system:
Duke Energy Carolinas: 800.769.3766
Duke Energy Progress: 800.419.6356
During Hurricane Isaias in 2020, a lot of customers in Wilmington, N.C., lost power, Brooks said, but in areas with upgraded poles and self-healing technology, more power stayed on.
“We’re going to significantly expand this technology in the next two to three years,” he said, “and that’s going to add a lot of benefits to communities.”
The company also built flood walls and made other improvements at around a dozen substations in eastern North Carolina and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Keeping the water out of these substations can help towns get power back quicker after a storm.
Since we’re still in the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s safety measures are still in place. Restoration teams from out of town stay with their teams and don’t mix with local crews. And while people have been vaccinated, the company still practices social distancing.
“We’ve been making upgrades across our system to build a stronger and smarter power grid to serve our customers,” said Scott Batson, senior vice president and Duke Energy’s chief distribution officer. “Our crews are ready to respond when the next hurricane strikes, and the improvements we have made, and will continue to make, will provide real benefits to customers and communities and help us restore power faster when they count on us most.”
Time to prepare for hurricane season
This is a good time, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said, to think about your family’s emergency preparedness plan. Where would you go if you are without power for an extended period?
Before the storm hits
- Create an emergency supply kit to save valuable time later. Include everything an individual or family would need for at least two weeks, especially medicines, water, non-perishable foods and other supplies that might be hard to find after a storm hits.
- Use a radio, TV or NOAA weather radio to monitor weather forecasts and important information from state and local officials.
- Charge portable chargers, cellphones, computers and other electronic devices before storms to stay connected to important safety and response information.
- Maintain a plan to move family members – especially those with special needs – to a safe, location in case an extended power outage occurs or evacuation is required.
- Review insurance policies, and include extra copies and other documents in a waterproof container in your emergency supply kit.
- Pet owners should make arrangements to stay at evacuation shelters that accept pets; friends' or family members' homes; or pet-friendly hotels.
After the storm
- Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees, limbs or anything in contact with lines.
- If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you must get out due to a fire or other life-threatening situation, jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.
- If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.