As mighty Hurricane Irene churns in the Atlantic Ocean, Progress Energy Carolinas employees are monitoring the potential path of the storm and implementing early phases of the company's comprehensive storm plan. The company encourages customers to review their own safety plans, as well.
The latest forecasts predict landfall Saturday in the N.C. Outer Banks as a strong category-2 or possibly a category-3 hurricane. That track would bring high winds and heavy rain to Progress Energy Carolinas’ eastern N.C. service area, likely resulting in some power outages along the coast and in the coastal plain. But such a track would not be expected to create widespread power outages in the central part of the state.
“It’s been a while since our service area has experienced a major hurricane, so we encourage customers to take advantage of this time to prepare their own storm plans,” said Howard Fowler, Progress Energy Carolinas’ storm coordinator. “Preparation is important. Having a plan in place and knowing what to do when bad weather approaches is critical to ensuring the safety of families and property.”
Progress Energy will continue to monitor the storm’s expected path and will deploy company crews as needed to restore service as safely and quickly as possible after the storm passes. If the storm creates significant damage and widespread power outages, Progress Energy has agreements in place to bring in additional crews from neighboring utilities and states to speed restoration.
Progress Energy will not send any company or local contract line and tree crews to other areas to assist in storm restoration until Hurricane Irene has passed and its effects in the Carolinas are fully assessed.
The company's storm plan includes mobilizing employees to handle increased customer calls, to quickly evaluate storm damage, to coordinate line crew and equipment mobilization, to coordinate materials required for repairs, and to arrange meals and lodging for out-of-town workers, as well as other logistics.
New tools to track outages and restoration
Customers who experience an outage during the storm should call the automated outage-reporting system at 1.800.419.6356. Progress Energy’s automated outage reporting system is capable of handling more than 120,000 calls per hour.
In addition to its automated outage reporting phone line, the utility has expanded its online resources to enable customers to report outages online. Customers can register and access this online tool by going to www.progress-energy.com/storm. Registered customers may also report outages on their smart phone using the company’s newly launched mobile website at m.progress-energy.com. Customers are advised to register their account prior to the storm in order to report outages online or from a mobile device.
Customers can find outage information on Progress Energy's website 24 hours a day at www.progress-energy.com/outagemap. During major storms, the map will be updated at regular intervals throughout the day.
Progress Energy will also use social media channels to keep customers informed throughout the storm restoration process. The company will post regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/progressenergy and Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProgressEnergyCarolinas.
Even though the forecast track for Hurricane Irene projects the most damaging winds of the storm to stay offshore, Progress Energy encourages customers to take steps to ensure their safety before, during and after the storm. Progress Energy offers the following storm safety tips:
When the storm threatens:
Check supplies and make sure you have the following items: portable radio with fresh batteries, flashlight, first-aid kit, canned or packaged food that can be prepared without cooking or refrigeration, several days’ supply of drinking water (one gallon per person, per day), a full tank of gas in your car and cash.
Unplug major, non-vital appliances. Advanced surge-protection systems will protect your home from most power surges, but will not prevent damage from a direct lighting strike.
Pay attention to local television and radio broadcasts for storm position, intensity and expected landfall.
Prepare for high winds by boarding up or taping windows and other glass, anchoring objects outside and bracing the garage door.
Secure boats and trailers on land and check mooring lines of boats in the water.
Put important papers in watertight containers (take them if you evacuate) and move valuables to upper stories of your home.
Fill your bathtub with water for sanitary purposes. Because water conducts electricity, it is not safe to run water during a storm.
If you know someone who relies on electric-powered life-support equipment, be prepared to move that person to a facility outside of the storm’s projected path to avoid the risk of an extended power outage.
When the storm hits:
Stay indoors in an inside room away from doors and windows, electrical outlets and water pipes.
Keep television and radio tuned for information from official sources. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
If you evacuate, shut off gas, water and electricity (electricity can be shut off at the breaker box). Take blankets, first-aid supplies and other essential items with you to the nearest shelter.
After the storm has passed:
Never go near downed power lines. Always assume they are energized and extremely dangerous. If someone suffers an electric shock, call 911 or your local rescue squad immediately. Even minor shocks may cause serious health problems later.
Check for electrical damage inside your home, such as frayed wires, sparks or the smell of burning insulation. If you find damage, don’t turn your power on until an electrician inspects your system and makes necessary repairs.
Walk and drive cautiously. Watch out for debris-filled streets and weakened bridges. Snakes and insects can be a problem after storms.
Use your emergency water supply or boil water before drinking it until local officials deem the water supply safe. Report broken sewer or water mains.
Make temporary repairs to protect property from further damage or looting. Beware of unscrupulous contractors.
If the power goes out
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food usually stays frozen about 48 hours. A refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.
Do not connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. It is dangerous to you, your neighbors and utility workers. Follow manufacturer’s directions regarding connecting appliances directly to your generator.
In any power outage, utility crews restore service as quickly as possible, starting with the largest lines serving the most people.
For more storm and safety information, visit Progress Energy's storm site at www.progress-energy.com/storm.