Last week began the 2013 hurricane season, which is expected to produce more hurricanes than usual and stronger ones, according to the 2013 Atlantic hurricane outlook released recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency says there’s a 70 percent chance of 13 to 20 named storms this year, of which 3 to 6 will be “major hurricanes’– that’s “above normal” for the season.
In our area, one of the biggest challenges has been loss of power. After Superstorm Sandy about one third of Con Edison customers lost power. Given the new storm predictions, the utility recently announced it would spend $1 billion on storm protection measures in Westchester County and New York City over the next four years.
“While we recognize that these weather events represent a ‘new normal,’ our goal through our investments is to lessen the hardships that violent weather causes for our customers,” said Con Edison Chairman and CEO Kevin Burke in a statement on May 28.
Above ground power lines were hit hard during Sandy. Given this vulnerability, Con Edison said it would pursue burying approximately 30 miles of overhead power lines in New York City and Westchester County in 2015 and 2016, at a cost of approximately $200 million. Undergrounding all 35,000 miles of the company’s overhead systems would cost approximately $60 billion.
Con Edison says its storm improvement plans include the following “major elements:”
- Installing hundreds of remote “smart” switches to isolate damaged equipment to help reduce the number of homes that lose power when a tree knocks down a power cable; and installing stronger, tree-branch resistant aerial cable.
- Installing utility poles in storm-prone areas that are 15 percent stronger and able to withstand wind gusts of up to 110 mph.
- Deploying thousands of overhead isolation devices to reduce customer outages and facilitate faster restoration.
- Deploying water-resistant sealant in conduits containing electrical circuits.
- Installing special float-check valves to protect gas services from floods.
- Replacing cast iron and steel gas pipes in flood prone areas.
- Strengthening communications for gas control and monitoring systems.
Satellite image courtesy NASA