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Today in Energy

October 22, 2018

Hurricane Michael caused 1.7 million electricity outages in the Southeast United States

estimated electricity outages caused by Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael resulted in outages for up to 1.7 million electricity customers across six states, according to situation reports from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, the storm made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Mexico Beach in the Florida panhandle. During the following two days, Hurricane Michael traveled through Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia with heavy rainfall and up to 65 mile-per-hour winds.

Outages were highest in Virginia, where peak outages reached 523,000 customers, or about 14% of the state, on October 12. North Carolina also saw significant outages on that day, reaching 492,000 customers, or 10% of the state. As of October 19, power had been restored to 93% of customers who experienced a storm-related outage.

Of the 125,000 customers still without power on October 19, more than 80% were in Florida. Gulf Power, which serves 459,000 customers in northwestern Florida, estimates that some customers may not have power restored until October 24. Duke Energy, which serves Mexico Beach, cannot currently estimate recovery times because much of the infrastructure in the area where the storm made landfall will need to be rebuilt.

Hurricane Michael path and wind speeds
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center

Electric load in the City of Tallahassee balancing authority dropped to about 30% of the forecasted peak load following Hurricane Michael’s landfall. Electric load recovered to pre-hurricane levels five days later. During and after the storm, EIA updated the Energy Disruptions page three times, detailing changes in electric load and electricity generation in several of the balancing authorities that Hurricane Michael affected.

electricity load for Tallahassee, Florida
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Electric System Operating Data, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

One nuclear power plant—Alabama’s Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Generating Station—was operating under reduced output as a precaution ahead of the storm. The plant operated at 30% capacity as Hurricane Michael passed over on October 11, but it increased to 55% capacity and gradually returned to full service by October 19. Several other nuclear power plants in the area, such as V.C. Summer and H.B. Robinson in South Carolina, were not operating during the storm because they were in maintenance outages that were planned before the storm’s formation.

Principal contributors: Maggie Woodward, Cara Marcy