Hurricane season begins Saturday and runs through Nov. 30. Lately, the season has been kicking off early.
Earlier this month, short-lived subtropical storm Andrea became the first named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. It is the fifth year in a row that the first storm of the season formed prior to June 1.
Whenever storms come, Alabama Power employees are prepared to respond.
“We prepare year-round for storms,” said Bobby Hawthorne, Alabama Power Distribution Engineering Service manager. “Due to our location, we are subject to tornadoes, hurricanes, straight-line wind events and ice and snow. We’ve had all these types of weather events occur in our service territory, so we remain prepared to respond.
“Established emergency response plans have been in place for many years,” Hawthorne continued. “These plans are reviewed and updated on a regular basis to reflect lessons we’ve learned, and lessons learned at other utilities. These updates are based on post-storm critiques and information we’ve learned while assisting other utilities during major storms.”
This year, hurricane forecasters are predicting “near-normal” conditions for 2019, with a 70% chance of nine to 15 named storms with winds of 39 miles per hour or higher. Of those, four to eight could become hurricanes, including two to four “major” hurricanes that reach Category 3 or higher.
Many utilities, including Alabama Power, have agreements for mutual assistance in the event of natural disasters and storms. This is often why convoys of utility vehicles are seen headed to the location of the latest large storm or disaster. The mutual assistance network is a cornerstone of electric utility operations during large storms with widespread outages.
Improvements in technology also are helping improve storm planning and response. “Our integrated distribution management system is becoming smarter and smarter,” Hawthorne said, referring to the core technologies the company uses to gather data on the condition of the grid, during fair weather and foul, including information about outages.
“The system allows operators to know more precisely where the damage has occurred so that crews can be deployed quicker to reduce outage times. It also automatically reroutes sources of power to impacted areas, minimizing the number of customers affected by the severe weather,” Hawthorne said.
Alabama Power’s smart meters also can assist in times of disaster. Smart meters quickly provide outage information to the company. Using this data, Alabama Power can identify which customers are without power and can verify customers who have had service restored. This information improves the overall efficiency of a restoration effort.
Drone use is another new normal at Alabama Power. Drones can help provide images from hard-to-reach locations for storm evaluation.
While Alabama Power is prepared for hurricane season, this is a good time for customers to review their personal plans for weather emergencies. Here are some tips to help prepare:
Preparing for a hurricane:
- Know the hurricane evacuation routes from your home.
- Determine where your family will meet, should you become separated.
- Make sure you have a way to contact loved ones outside of the affected zone.
- When a storm is predicted, keep cellphones and electronic devices charged.
- Stay informed with a battery-operated weather radio.
- Stock an emergency kit with
- First-aid supplies.
- Copies of critical information.
- Keep a three-day supply of water – 1 gallon per person per day – and nonperishable food.
- If you live in coastal areas, cover windows and reinforce garage doors. Storm shutters are ideal, but windows can be safeguarded with plywood.
- Trim shrubs and trees close to your home to reduce the chances your house will be damaged.
- Turn down the thermostat in your home. It can help keep your home cool for up to 48 hours during a power outage.
- Bring in outdoor items, such as patio furniture, decorations and garbage cans.
During a hurricane:
- Seek shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows and doors.
- Monitor your weather radio for updates and reports.
After a hurricane:
- Stay off flooded roads.
- If there is a power outage or a downed line, call Alabama Power’s automated reporting system at 1-800-888-APCO (2726). Stay away from downed lines and keep pets away.
- Stay clear of damaged and fallen trees where a downed line may be hidden.
- Check for property damage. Take photos for insurance purposes.
- Check perishable foods and tap water for contamination.
Find more information about storm safety at www.alabamapower.com or visit the National Weather Service Hurricane Preparedness website at https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness.