WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Duke Energy projects as many as three million customers could lose power for an extended period of time because of Hurricane Florence.
"That is our worst-case scenario," said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy Storm Director. Fowler and Duke Energy North Carolina President David Fountain briefed reporters on the company's planned response to the massive storm.
"People can be without power for a very long time," Fountain said. "Not just days, but weeks."
Fowler said the company's modeling of the storm's potential impact shows between one and three million outages, or between 25-75 percent of the Duke Energy's customers in the affected areas of North Carolina and South Carolina. The worst-case scenario model is based on the storm potentially impacting Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte areas along with the coastal areas around Wilmington. The number of projected outages would decrease if the storm follows the latest projected track closer to the North Carolina coast before moving into coastal South Carolina. Fowler asserted that assessing the damage and making restorations could take longer after Florence than it did following other hurricanes. The projected level of storm surge and rainfall is likely to hamper the efforts.
"This is not an ordinary storm," Fowler said. "The forecast shows the impact could include historic flooding. In the aftermath of most hurricanes you find the power lines and equipment on the ground. In Florence, a lot of this equipment is expected to be in flooded and underwater areas. A very different storm that we've got to deal with."
Fowler says Duke Energy will have about 8,000 carolinas-based workers joined by crews from other service areas like the Midwest (1,700) and Florida (1,200) responding to the storm. Another 9,400 resources are coming in from utility companies across the southeast, ready to go to work when the storm has passed.
"Depending on what the model tells us, some areas as you could imagine will have heavier resourcing than other areas," he said. "We have a heavier contingency in our coastal territory, and then if you look back up to the Charlotte area, because it is a little bit further west, that number does become lighter as we go inland."
"I can assure you that we are primed and ready to respond to Florence once it is safe to do so," Fountain said. "We will not rest until power is restored for everyone."
Regarding the company's nuclear facility in Brunswick County, Fountain said workers have plans to take action should the conditions warrant at the Southport location. He stressed operators have trained for just such a scenario.
"If we determine that the plant site will experience the sustained hurricane-force winds, operators will begin an orderly shutdown of the generating unit to be completed at least two hours before the expected impact," he said. "Operators will remain on-site throughout the event to monitor both wind and water levels to monitor any possible threats to the plant."