Hurricane season starts June 1, but Tampa Electric prepares year-round to deal with the potential impacts of hurricanes and widespread power outages. Tampa Electric’s comprehensive storm plan is in place and ready to help restore power as safely and quickly as possible in the event of severe weather. The company also recommends that customers have a storm plan in place for their homes or businesses.
Hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, is a particularly vulnerable time for the system of wires and equipment generating and delivering electricity to homes and businesses. Severe storms can damage Tampa Electric’s energy production and delivery systems, and power outages are not uncommon during storm conditions.
Tampa Electric has taken actions to implement a 10-point plan to “harden” its portion of the state’s electric system against severe weather, including hurricanes. The company invests approximately $20 million on this 10-point plan annually, which includes infrastructure hardening, tree trimming and pole inspections. Overall, this effort includes:
- Inspecting almost 40,000 distribution poles and more than 4,000 transmission structures in 2010 for strength and physical condition.
- Replacing almost 700 wood transmission structures in 2010 with non-wood structures during the company’s annual maintenance of the transmission system.
- Trimming tree limbs and branches from approximately 2,000 miles of power lines in 2010.
The company also completed phase three upgrades to the Port of Tampa’s existing electrical transmission and distribution equipment to the standards of National Electrical Safety Code extreme wind construction grade. This project involved replacing more than 30 existing poles and equipment designed to withstand winds up to 135 mph.
Tampa Electric also has peaking units with “black start” capability that can start the company’s larger generating units without having to rely on importing power from outside its system in the event a hurricane or major storm causes the community’s electric grid to lose power, or go “black.”
The company has a rail coal unloading facility at its Big Bend Power Station that will provide diversity of transportation methods to receive coal at Big Bend. Previously, coal shipments were received exclusively by waterborne methods, which are subject to disruption from storms in the Gulf of Mexico.
As with all its activities, safety is always Tampa Electric’s number one priority following a storm. Tampa Electric’s second objective in the event of widespread outages is to focus on repairs that will restore power to the largest number of customers in the shortest possible time. Team members work to restore power to the entire service area as safely and quickly as possible.
Tampa Electric’s restoration priorities
Tampa Electric strives to restore service in priority order. It focuses on restoring facilities identified by governmental agencies as critical to public health and safety, such as hospitals, disaster centers and main police and fire stations. This way, these critical agencies can assist with other storm-related problems or injuries.
Due to the configuration of the power system, part of a residential subdivision could have its power restored while another part is still without power. All residential areas are considered equally important, and Tampa Electric works safely and quickly to restore service to everyone.
Underground electric systems do not guarantee protection from damage by hurricanes and other storms. Uprooted trees, flooding and tidal surges can cause severe damage to the underground system. In flooded areas, storm damage restoration efforts must be delayed until the water has receded, and restoration typically takes longer on underground systems.
When a major storm’s arrival is imminent, Tampa Electric coordinates with utilities and contractors across the nation to mobilize crews towards Florida. Tampa Electric’s crews are placed on call so that they are available to repair any damage affecting Tampa Electric’s lines and equipment – but only when they can do so safely.