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Thu Apr 16, 2020, 08:32 AM

We Can Now Expect More & Longer Blackouts - More Violent Weather, Shortage Of Utility Crews (COVID)

By mid-Monday morning, storms sweeping north from the Gulf Coast had left more than 1.3 million out of power in the U.S. Under normal circumstances, this would have called for the mass mobilization of crews to get the lights back on. But not this time.

For years, when the power went out in one region due to a natural disaster or other catastrophic event, workers from elsewhere would rush in to help restore the grid. Due to government-issued stay-at-home orders and the overhanging threat of Covid-19, however, utilities have had to curtail or even suspend longstanding mutual assistance pacts. “This industry is built on the expectation of helping each other in times of need,” says Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness for Edison Electric Institute (EEI). Now Aaronson is instructing plant managers: “Plan as though you don’t get outside help.”

At least 10 U.S. utility workers have already died in the pandemic, according to a union official. A council of industry leaders that helps utilities work with the federal government to plan for disasters is advising companies to avoid sending crews into areas with significant outbreaks and to limit contact between workers from different regions. All of that means that as climate change makes storms fiercer and more frequent, it's going to take longer to turn the power back on.


About 1,200 tornadoes strike the U.S. each year, peaking in May or June in the Midwest and even earlier in the south. On March 28 alone, tornadoes reportedly touched down in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Arkansas, while hail and wind damaged trees, power lines, and buildings in 13 states. Meanwhile, Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and initial forecasts from Colorado State University and other meteorologists call for it to be an especially active one. CSU also says there’s an above average chance that a single storm could knock out power to 1 million or more people along the Eastern Seaboard.



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