Florida Panhandle Utilities Brace for Hurricane Michael

Packing 150 mph winds, Hurricane Michael has made landfall along the Florida Panhandle. The almost–Category 5 storm might well be the strongest to hit the Emerald Coast in more than 100 years.

Not since Hurricane Opal, back in 1995, has there been a storm even remotely as strong as Michael to strike the coastal area. Causing major havoc to infrastructure, recovery from Opal reached $4.7 billion (1995 USD).

Wide spread power outages are expected as Michael zeros in on several communities along the coast including the heavily populated capital of Florida, Tallahassee. The metropolitan area is home to Florida State University, Florida A&M and Tallahassee Community College, all have been closed through Friday.

The Tallahassee metropolitan area has an estimated population of over 382,000 people.

Major electric power plants in the path of the hurricane include:

  • Joseph M Farley, Alabama (1,865 MW, nuclear)
  • Edwin Hatch, Georgia (1,876 MW, nuclear)
  • Vogtle, Georgia (2,360 MW, nuclear)
  • Scherer, Georgia (3,564 MW, coal)
  • McIntosh, Georgia (988 MW, gas)
  • Jasper, South Carolina (1,002 MW, gas)
  • Cross, South Carolina (2,390 MW, coal)
Major electric grid infrastructure in path of Hurricane Michael Source: ABB Velocity Suite, 2018

Major electric grid infrastructure in path of Hurricane Michael Source: ABB Velocity Suite, 2018

The Jim Woodruff dam, constructed in the 1950’s is also in the storm’s path. The facility located northwest of Tallahassee was completed in 1957 at the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers and drains into the Apalachicola River.

The reservoir behind the dam is Lake Seminole. It has 376 miles of shoreline. There are three electric generating units totaling 45.6 MW at the dam site.

Along with major onshore electric grid damage, the storm has already slowed oil and gas production in the Gulf region.

According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Hurricane Response Team, personnel have been evacuated from 89 production platforms, 13% of the 687 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, eight of the 17 dynamically positioned rigs located in the Gulf have been moved away from the storm’s path. The rigs are moved with thrusters and propellers and are not moored to the seafloor.

Three unmovable rigs have been evacuated. The BSEE reports 42.3% of total oil production and 31.7% of total gas production in the Gulf of Mexico production area has been shut-in.

The University of Michigan’s Guikema Research Group, specializing in risk analysis, reports as many as 2.3 to 3.0 million electric customers could experience power outages within the storm’s path.

The website PowerOutage.us reported, as of 11:45 AM MDT, 170,754 outages as the storm reached the coast. The number increased by over 120,000 outages in just the past hour.

Duke Energy announced yesterday that they anticipate 100,000 to 200,000 of their customers will be without power as the storm strikes their service territories along the Panhandle.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the region as the storm moves through the 5-state area of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina which is still reeling from last month’s Hurricane Florence.

There are 372 utilities in the five-state area with over 25 million customers including; large investor-owned utilities, municipalities and rural electric cooperatives.

Electric companies in the immediate path of Michael serve roughly 2.7 million customers including large power suppliers; Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tallahassee Utilities.

Source: ABB Velocity Suite, 2018

Source: ABB Velocity Suite, 2018

Kent Knutson, Energy Market Content Specialist, ABB (kent.knutson@us.abb.com)

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn on October 10, 2018.