The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is well under way. It runs from June 1 through November 30, and forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center now indicate a 60% chance of an above-normal season, with 14-19 named storms. Of these storms, five to nine could become hurricanes, including two to five major hurricanes.
States are prioritizing hurricane preparedness with the aid of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) State Energy Program (SEP). The program helps many state energy offices design and implement energy security, resiliency, and emergency preparedness plans.
Consider the preparedness efforts of these four Atlantic states:
Florida’s emergency planning and response includes engagement with the private sector to acquire transportation fuel during hurricanes or other natural disasters. The state energy office also helps Florida’s natural gas and energy utilities secure supply during emergencies and restore power to important infrastructure after outages.
Florida’s SunSmart Schools E-Shelter program provides public schools that serve as emergency shelters with 10 kilowatt hour solar systems and battery backups. More than 100 systems have been installed, producing roughly 13 megawatt hours annually. The systems offset electricity use when the power grid is down. The program started with a $9.8 million Recovery Act grant through SEP and $900,000 in matching funds from Florida utilities.
Georgia’s emergency planning helps the state improve its information systems for addressing threats to electricity and fuel supply. For example, if there is a fuel shortage in a particular area, the state can drill down to the gas station level and give them a call, or call the local emergency management agency. It can also assess critical infrastructure, age and demographics of the population, weight capacity of nearby bridges, and other critical information.
DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability played an integral role in Georgia’s response to Hurricane Mathew in October 2016 by sending regional energy assurance specialists to states in the region as the storm approached.
During this storm, more than ever before, we felt the support of the U.S. DOE.
New York’s state energy office devotes resources to hurricane preparation. The office conducted multiple studies, such as “Study to Assess the Need for Backup Generation at Upstate Retail Fuel Outlets (2014),” in response to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and Tropical Storm Lee. The study took into account the recent shift in storm patterns, which have demonstrated an “increased frequency and severity.” It concluded that backup power capacity should be provided at strategically located retail gas stations along certain upstate highways.
This year, with support from SEP, the Massachusetts state energy office participated in meetings with the City of Boston and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency on energy resilience regarding hurricanes and other storms. Their objective was prioritizing resilience gaps and identifying potential mitigation strategies to bolster the resilience of the energy and transportation sectors in the face of a major hurricane or nor’easter. Participants drafted a roadmap for actionable strategies and recommendations.
These activities are just a small sample of the work of states in hurricane preparation. The legacy of Hurricane Sandy weighs heavily on all levels of government. The storm’s damage estimates exceeded $50 billion, according to U.S. Department of Commerce.
Learn more about SEP’s role in helping states in meeting their energy objectives. You can also check out our community guidelines for energy emergencies and stay up-to-date with the U.S. Energy Information Administration's energy infrastructure disruptions map.