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Duke Energy eyes Charlotte but holds units to be ready for Ian in NC

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GREENSBORO, N.C. Local Charlotte News – It’s a common site when a hurricane is headed for the coast: A caravan of power truck after power truck motors into the storm as crews prepare to repair and restore.

Duke Energy in North Carolina has crews ready to help as powerful Hurricane Ian slowly pounds ashore in Southwest Charlotte – but not so much so that the company is unprepared for what could happen closer to home.

Ian strengthens to Category 4 hurricane, nears 155 mph windspeeds (WFLA image)

“We’re continuing to follow the track of Ian as it makes landfall in Charlotte,” Duke spokesperson Jeff Brooks said in response to emailed questions from WGHP. “Obviously, that will be the state that sees the biggest impacts, and our peer utility Duke Energy Charlotte is right in the crosshairs.

“There are already more than 10,000 line and tree workers in Charlotte, with more reinforcements that have come from our Midwest utilities and other sources around the country.”

In case you haven’t been watching, Ian is nearly a Category 5 storm that made formal landfall at the small town of Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon.

The storm will proceed on some path to the north and east that ultimately should bring significant wind and rain to North Carolina. That path and timing could change, but every forecast track has had the Piedmont Triad being affected.

Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency to allow for easier access to goods and services in case the storm hits the state hard. And that potential very much is at the forefront of planning at Duke Energy, Brooks said.

“Because we are still very much in the line of the storm here in the Carolinas, we are keeping the core of our crews in place in our local communities to be able to respond to outages here,” he said.

“Once the storm passes and we are certain of areas that are either not impacted or that are adequately staffed to complete restorations, we will evaluate any needs for additional resources in Charlotte.”

A history of storms

It has been nearly four years since Hurricane Michael pounded across North Carolina after having been one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S., the first since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Michael was responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage, and its impacts continue for some residents.

Hurricane Florence was a Category 4 storm that hit the Carolinas head-on in 2018, killing 42 people in the state and doing more than $24 billion in damage, mostly because of flooding. Many areas still haven’t fully been repaired.

Others are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew two years before that. Evaluations of those responses continue, but history lessons from a storm always can inform.

“Fortunately, this is a scenario we’ve experienced before in hurricanes like Matthew and Michael that impacted both Charlotte and the Carolinas,” Brooks said. “So we have a solid plan in place and adequate resources to serve customers in both regions.

“And we have a flexible plan that can be adjusted to move resources where they are needed to respond once the storm passes.”

Being prepared

This GOES-East GeoColor satellite image taken at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2022, and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows the eye of Hurricane Ian approaching the southwest coast of Charlotte. Hurricane Ian’s most damaging winds began hitting Charlotte’s southwest coast Wednesday, lashing the state with heavy rain and pushing a devastating storm surge after strengthening to the threshold of the most dangerous Category 5 status. (NOAA via AP)

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has issued an advisory to residents to be prepared basically for everything.

“Rain will move in early in the day on Friday, and then the heavier bands will come in later in the day,” Nick Petro, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said in a streaming forecast on Wednesday morning. “That’s when we think the greater risk for flash flooding will be, late in the day, evening into the overnight, Friday night into Saturday night hours.”

He said the weather formation will “split” as it approaches the state, and forecasts are subject to change as the hurricane’s track becomes more known. That’s why Duke Energy’s employees are preparing to respond as needed. Brooks said crews were ready for outages.

“Fortunately, the forecast shows significant weakening before it [Hurricane Ian] reaches the Carolinas, but it could cross over open water, which could give it a chance to gain some strength. So there’s definitely still the possibility of outages across the state as well as significant rainfall, which could create localized flooding. 

“We are currently managing water levels on the lakes and rivers that we manage and anticipation of concentrated rainfall, and otherwise just preparing for storm duty in a few days.”



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