The tropical storm season is here. As I pen this article in early July, five storms with tropical characteristics have already developed in the Atlantic basin. The first one developed in mid-May, even before the official start of Hurricane season, which was June 1.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a 60 percent chance of an above normal Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane season runs until November 30. With the tropical activity to date coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, this may turn into a longer summer and fall than we would like.
Even though we are located off the coast by a couple hundred miles, our region is highly suspectable to tropical events. A storm that many remember as the reigning high bar for tropical events in our area was Hurricane Fran. Hurricane Fran hit in September 1996, and knocked out power to 83 percent of our members, with power restoration efforts lasting for more than a week.
Jumping to more recent memory, who could forget 2018? In mid-September, Tropical Storm Florence caused significant damage to the Randolph EMC system, with days of heavy rain and gusty winds. With Florence’s deluge, 46 percent of our members were out of power, some multiple times. Florence also caused extensive flooding due to the record rainfall associated with the storm.
Then, once we had caught our breath, Tropical Storm Michael paid us a visit in early October. Unlike Florence, who was like the relative that would never leave, Michael was a fast mover. The remnants of the eye of Tropical Storm Michael passed over the center of our service area. All was good up until that point, with only a few scattered outages.
But a high wind band was trailing the center of the storm and it caused more damage to our electrical system than Florence’s multi-day winds. With Michael, 52 percent of members were without power.
Why am I reminding you of these past events? There’s a strong probability that we will be dealing with a tropical storm or hurricane again this year. And I want you to be prepared.
When a major storm event hits, it takes extensive planning and a strong response to restore power in a safe and efficient manner. We can’t just flip a switch and the system repair itself. Randolph EMC maintains a detailed storm response plan that is activated when a major weather event is predicted to impact our system. It takes a concerted effort from a dedicated and experienced team to clear trees, repair lines, provide materials and supplies, coordinate crew locations, take calls and keep crews fed.
For the COVID-19 pandemic, Randolph EMC is considered critical infrastructure. You expect us to respond to an outage at a moment’s notice. I have informed you in previous articles about our efforts to protect the REMC workforce from COVID-19. Including contractors, we normally have around 150 personnel working on any given day to serve your needs.
When a major storm event hits, it takes extensive planning and a strong response to restore power in a safe and efficient manner.
During a major storm event, outside line personnel are brought in to assist our own crews, which results in a quicker power restoration effort. Until the virus subsides, we will implement additional protective measures to restrict contact and limit the potential spread among hundreds of additional line personnel on our system. Even something as simple as providing meals for our crews during storms will have to change. It’s no longer safe for storm personnel to sit elbow to elbow as they take a moment to recharge and receive safety and progress briefings.
I can assure you we are taking very proactive steps to keep our workforce safe during this pandemic because of our desire to serve you with exceptional service—on those routine days and when a major weather event hits our system.
Major storms can result in being out of power for multiple days, so I’m asking you to take the necessary steps now to assist us in being prepared before a storm hits. Here are a few tips:
- Create a family disaster supply kit with non-perishable food, water, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, a first aid kit, a non‑electric can opener, medicines and cash. Don’t forget to think about how COVID-19 may affect the items in your kit. You might want to add face coverings and hand sanitizer to the list.
- Make sure portable, rechargeable cell phone power banks are charged and accessible.
- Update your Randolph EMC account with your family’s cell phone numbers and enroll in our SPOTT Alerts outage texting program. Store 1-877-736-2633, our outage reporting number, in cell phones to call or text if needed.
Follow local government, emergency management agencies and Randolph EMC on social media to stay up to date with information before, during, and after a disaster. REMC’s mobile app has links to our social sites and outage map and you’ll automatically receive texts from us if your mobile number is listed in your account.
Please don’t wait until disaster strikes to react.
I urge you to take the necessary precautions and make preparations now for extensive power outages.
Cooperatively Yours in Safety,
Dale F. Lambert
Chief Executive Officer
Did you know?
Having your current phone numbers and email address listed in your account information is extremely important. You might not realize that the information we have on file for you is listed on your bill. Next time yours comes in the mail, take a moment to verify that the number we have on file is correct. If not, update your info on the Online Member Service Portal or call your local office to be sure you’re receiving notifications that may concern your bill, planned outages or power restoration status.