Progress Energy Carolinas is tripling its normal complement of line workers and tree crews in advance of massive and powerful Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall around Cape Lookout Saturday.
Forecasters expect hurricane-force winds to extend west 50 miles and tropical storm-force winds to extend up to 175 miles west of the eye. That means coastal areas could experience widespread power outages and damage. And parts of the Triangle and central North Carolina could see sustained tropical storm-force winds beginning Friday night, causing additional outages. The storm is expected to bring wind gusts up to 140 mph and up to 10 inches of rain along the path of the eye.
Progress Energy expects the storm’s effects to begin along the southern coast of North Carolina late today, with the strongest winds lasting from around sunrise Saturday to early evening. Lingering gusty winds will hamper restoration efforts until the storm clears the area. To ensure their safety, crews cannot work in winds of 39 mph or higher. Progress Energy will begin work as soon as the high winds exit.
Today and Saturday, about 660 additional line personnel and more than 100 additional tree cutters will arrive from other Progress Energy locations (including Progress Energy Florida), and from neighboring utilities and states (including North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia). They will supplement a normal complement of 300 line personnel in the region. Progress Energy also has reserved additional off-system crews to travel to hard-hit areas if the situation warrants.
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.