Hurricanes and Power Infrastructure

By:

Chase Raz

September 18, 2017

Hurricane Irma over Florida in 2017

Hurricane Irma directly impacted Florida throughout the 10th and 11th of September 2017 and wreaked havoc as it traveled up the state from the Florida Keys onward on the western side of the state.  For the most part, mainland Florida fared well as land interactions with Cuba had degraded the storm from its peak—and record setting—intensities.  The storm highlighted some stand out excellences, and some sore opportunities, for Florida’s infrastructure.

Multinewmedia thanks all linemen and linewomen who worked tirelessly after the hurricane to restore power to the state.  North and central Florida are almost completely restored a week later, but the hardest hit areas in south Florida have higher outage percentages.  As the eyewall of the storm passed directly overhead at the Multinewmedia studios, power had only been lost for less than an hour.  It took the outer eyewall of a category 2 hurricane to knock out power in our area served by Lakeland Electric.  While obviously stellar performance, other areas weren’t so fortunate.

One town just to the south of our operating area lost power roughly six hours prior to the eyewall impacts—which are the most intense winds other a hurricane—when little more than a drizzle and some breezy conditions were present.  Sure, some power stations when offline as a protective measure, but those are closer to the coast.  Some Florida power infrastructure near-routinely goes down during regular thunderstorms (which can be offset by undergrounding), other parts of the power infrastructure experience difficulties in moist conditions, such as Florida’s brutal humidity.

While maintaining power through category 1 and 2 winds (except the eye wall with its gusts) is no small feat, and we applaud those who make that possible.  But in the 21st century, can’t we ask for more?  Could Florida come to appreciate and enjoy a system that, at least mostly, survives category 3 winds?  This could be accomplished by the use of local house and neighborhood-based power creation and exchange with renewable energies and a localized grid.  The local grids could then connect to a larger interchange throughout the state to help share and distribute power to the communities most negatively impacted in production capability during a storm. 

If the electric companies want to retain their market position, now is the time to act as more and more Florida home owners and businesses turn to their own renewable power generation and mitigate their outages utilizing the power grid only as an emergency backup.

For more on the state of power—and other—infrastructure in Florida and the United States.  Listen to Multinewmedia Episode 67: Infrastructure 2 and Episode 11: Infrastructure.  Be sure to leave your own ideas and thoughts in the comments section below.