Is Your Utility Ready for Hurricane Season?

Hurricane season 2022 is approaching fast, with major implications for utilities across the southern and eastern United States. With strong hurricane seasons appearing set to continue for the foreseeable future, utilities are taking proactive steps to improve their ability to prepare for hurricanes and respond to them in the most effective manner possible.

Utility Dive provides an interesting breakdown of the impact of improved disaster preparedness here. They quote a representative of Florida Power & Light who notes that investments in storm hardening and better response strategies are leading to “wholesale improvement in recovery process and times...There is no utility that is hurricane-proof...We know there will be outages. But we certainly saw the difference between Hurricane Wilma in 2006 and Irma in 2017.” To keep pace with stronger and more frequent hurricanes, utilities will need to continue investing in enhanced outage management capabilities.

In this blog, we provide an overview of what to expect from the hurricane season in 2022. Next, we provide a more specific look at important analytics capabilities that can help utilities prevent and mitigate hurricane damage.

What is the outlook for hurricane season in 2022?

According to the NOAA, hurricane season for the Atlantic basin runs from June 1 to November 30, with occasional storms both before and after this date range, and a peak risk between mid-August and mid-October. The Pacific basin can also generate hurricanes and tropical cyclones around the same time frame, although these storms tend make landfall exclusively on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Recent hurricane seasons have exhibited consistently above average levels of storm activity. 2021’s 21 named storms and seven hurricanes marked the third most active hurricane season ever recorded (and caused over $80 billion in economic damage). 2022 appears to be no exception to the trend. Research by the Colorado State University Tropical Weather & Climate Research center forecasts 19 named storms, with 9 hurricanes (4 of them major) for 2022. This number of storms represents around 35 days affected by hurricane-driven weather. This forecast compares to an average of around 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes in recent years. As climate change continues to warm oceans, hurricanes are also likely to become larger and more powerful on average as well.

For utilities, a major hurricane that makes landfall can create one of the most difficult outage management scenarios imaginable. Hurricanes can damage assets across a broad swath of territory in short order, while flooding can make transporting maintenance crews and spare parts more difficult at the worst possible time. With large numbers of customers likely experiencing outages in the wake of a major hurricane, utilities also face an imperative to prioritize the repair work which can restore service for the greatest possible number of critical customers possible. Along the way, customers will be highly reliant on the utility to provide timely, accurate ETR updates (calculations that become even more challenging in the aftermath of a large storm). Fortunately, the right analytics capabilities can play a powerful role in helping utilities meet these immense challenges.

How can utilities leverage their data to improve hurricane damage prevention, readiness, and response?

The right analytics capabilities dramatically enhance a utility’s ability to mitigate hurricane impact on service reliability. In the lead up to the storm, asset-level health data can help identify the most at risk assets and prioritize replacement through analysis of which equipment failures would affect the greatest number of customers. As the hurricane approaches, storm path analytics can help identify which critical equipment is likely to be damaged, allowing the utility to preposition maintenance crews with precisely the right spare parts. In the storm’s wake, these same capabilities can help utilities restore service as quickly as possible (all while supporting the most transparent, accurate customer communication possible).

We take a deeper look at outage analytics “before and after the storm” in our blog here. Some of the most important specific analytics capabilities to consider include:

  • Vegetation Management: which assets are vulnerable to overhanging trees or other vegetation likely to amplify hurricane-related damage? Proactively spotting and addressing these risks is a great way to proactively limit hurricane damage to infrastructure.
  • Asset Level Health Data: translating asset-level health data into an intuitive is a great way to generate actionable intelligence for prioritizing maintenance work and determining where to position crews before a storm.
  • Mutual Aid Planning: advanced distribution analytics can help utilities anticipate emergency aid needs, plan ahead, and warn partners of impending issues. Mutual aid planning is always important, but it becomes absolutely critical in the context of hurricanes, which often cause damage over a broad geographic area covered by multiple utilities.

Utility360 Can Help Harness Your Data for Improved Outage Management Capabilities in the Face of Hurricanes and Beyond

Utility360 is a robust operational analytics and reporting solution designed as a turnkey outage management platform. Created based on our experience solving challenges confronted by some of the biggest utilities in North America, Utility360 is designed to ensure that decision-makers have timely access to critical data for all of their day-to-day workflows. By providing capabilities like sophisticated ETR analytics, accurate outage maps, real-time dashboards, and robust integration with customer care and billing systems, Utility 360 can help utilities with virtually every phase of hurricane preparation and response.

For a deeper look at how real-time analytics can help transform utility operations, please see our guide here. Or, if you’re interested in discussing the best way to begin implementing enhanced analytics capabilities for the next hurricane season, please reach out to our team using the form below.

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