While estimates of the damage from Hurricane Florence and its downgrade to a tropical storm in the Carolinas and Georgia – ranging at $20 billion plus, mainly due to flooding from the heavy rains – are still being tabulated, many areas in North and South Carolina are still underwater with homes and businesses having water that reached the roof level.
Without a doubt, a good percentage of the damage tally will include the impacts on electrical systems and the cost to replace those that have been compromised after being soaked for either a day or two and some more than a week. The images on the news clearly illustrate the situation facing contractors, who will be busy over the next few months as they race to rebuild systems and let people return to their homes and re-open their businesses.
Now Hurricane Michael is entering the Carolinas, even as they are still reeling from epic flooding by Hurricane Florence. The damage still to come will likely add to an already lengthy recovery process.
State Electric Supply Co., which operates in seven states, including North Carolina and Virginia, was prepared to help electrical contractors prior to the storms’ arrival and is currently preparing to deal with the aftermath while waiting for the waters to recede in many parts of North Carolina.
Bill Craven, the manager of the Raleigh outlet, has experienced many hurricanes. While inland Raleigh was only affected by “significant rain and tropical storm force winds,” it was the areas along the coast that were hard hit, including New Bern, Kinston, Goldsboro, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and the Cape Fear River area.
“I’m pretty familiar with these storms,” he said, “so we have some knowledge of what’s going to happen even before it happens based on previous storms.”
Planning for Florence began a week before it struck the coast when it was at Category 4 status.
“It looked like we were going to take a direct hit and come up right through Raleigh,” said Craven. “This was before it took southward turn. We were literally bombarded with requests for supplies by contractors trying to get in front of the storm so that they would be prepared for helping customers when it hit. We did the best we could to prepare in advance and to react after the storm to get materials where they will be needed. We bought extra materials in advance of the storm, and we’re relying heavily on our vendors to support us in the recovery effort.”
Contractors were seeking generators and associated materials, meter bases, and other necessary equipment for the residential market.
“The commercial markets were not trying to react prior to the storm,” said Craven. “During the storm, people were dealing with rising water issues in areas where they had flash flooding from torrential rains – we had about 10 to 12 inches of rain over the course of 48 to 72 hours. And as the storm turned further south, the water levels rose and are still significantly high. I saw the pictures [on September 26] and water [was] up to the roof line – it [wasn’t] over.”
Craven is very concerned about the homes and businesses that have been submerged, particularly when the utilities restore the power to the impacted areas.
“There will be issues that are immediately going to be seen with equipment, that might have been compromised by tree limbs and other debris that was blown around, becomes live,” he said, “and then you are going to have electrical equipment that is either going to work or blowout. But the longer lasting impact is going to be when power is re-instated to homes and people just clean them up. You have all this wire and electrical components behind the walls that may not be visibly impaired, but are going to corrode and could be coated with debris or residue from the flood waters – oil and sewage – that are going to affect the performance for maybe years to come.”
While State Electric does not know how much material is needed for the recovery, material from warehouses and outlets in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will be available.
“Our inventory is visible from any location,” said Craven, “so any item can be shipped to any location affected by the storm. We have an inventory management team that is reacting to the situation as needed. In eastern North Carolina, we have an inventory control manager and he and his team are communicating with the branches to determine what is needed.”Tagged with disaster, Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael