Restoring power after a hurricane

Hurricane season is right around the corner. A storm surge in coastal areas can produce floods that can damage homes, cars and boats. Inland, the strong winds can blast down older transmission towers, destroy transformers on pole-tops, and damage switching equipment in power substations.

There can also be heavy rains that flood inland properties. Substations have been flooded in recent times from hurricanes causing severe equipment damage, which has resulted in long-lasting power outages.

Reenergizing a substation isn’t as easy as 1,2,3

As consumers and ratepayers, we expect to have electricity at the flip of a switch.

What goes on behind the scenes once power is lost to restore it, is more complicated. The power grid is one the largest, most complex machines ever built and it takes a lot of people with specialized skills and experience to maintain it.

This machine has a network of power lines that run through neighborhoods, over rivers and mountains, through cities, and even underground. It’s a major task to maintain it to supply consumers with safe and reliable power.

The approximate distance of all the lines in the United States alone spans the distance from Earth to the moon five times. That is a lot to keep an eye on 24/7.

When a major storm hits, power outages can be widespread

In some cases, the power can be out for weeks. Depending on how well the equipment and substations are maintained and upgraded for resiliency, it could even be months before the lights come back on.

Recent hurricanes have taken down parts of the transmission network, which is the backbone of an area’s energy supply. Since Superstorm Sandy, there have been an array of equipment upgrades to increase the reliability and resiliency of the power grid and substations in the Northeast US.

Whether it’s a hurricane, strong wind, or lightning storm that takes out the lights, we all want our power back as soon as possible, including the men and women working on their storm restoration assignment.

Getting the power back

The power company will put together storm patrol teams, damage accessors and corporate teams including company officers to take control of the situation as efficiently and safely as possible.

Control centers will be set up to assess the damage before the go-ahead to restore is given, and physical damage has to be repaired in compliance with specific codes before the switch is flipped back on.

The utility needs to ensure the power restoration is done safely and reliably. This is electricity that is being handled, so keeping the communities and utility workers safe is a prime concern. In many cases, equipment also needs to be hardened to lessen the effect of a similar event in the future.

For tips on what to do to prepare for a hurricane or other storm that could cause flooding or power outages, be sure to check out our resources below:


© 2018 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions.

Vincenzo Pagliuca

Vincenzo Pagliuca is a Principal Electrical Engineer for Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. Vincenzo assists the claims and underwriting departments by providing corrective action and risk solutions utilizing his expert knowledge and technical background. He has over 23 years of experience in electrical engineering as well as research and development.

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