Storm Response: Hurricane Sandy Power Restoration

Extreme weather events like blizzards, tornados or hurricanes, are known for causing widespread power outages; however, it’s hurricanes that have proven to be the most destructive to our power grid. Of the top 10 largest blackouts in U.S. history, nine were caused by hurricanes, according to a Rhodium Group Report.

Superstorm Sandy was no exception. It proved to be one of the most deadly and destructive storms of the last decade. This record-breaking hurricane first made landfall in Jamaica on October 24th, 2012. From there, it traveled up through the Caribbean, hitting Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane.

After moving through the Bahamas, Sandy remained in the Atlantic ocean, traveling north and gathering strength. Finally, the storm made a left hook and hit land again, this time in New Jersey.

Sandy slammed into the coast just north of  Atlantic City with 80 m.p.h winds. The storm surge was amplified by high tides brought on by a full moon. Streets, tunnels, and subway stations were quickly flooded. High winds snapped trees and downed power lines. Several major fires broke out, one fire consumed 80 homes.

In midtown Manhattan, a construction crane 75-stories tall was ripped off of its foundation and dangled dangerously above the street.

Meanwhile, the storm surge closed in on a substation in lower Manhattan. The utility company had barricaded the facility, anticipating as much as 12-feet of storm surge. However, the waters exceeded even the most catastrophic estimates and quickly overwhelmed the station. Eleven engineers were trapped inside the building. A large flash lit up the night sky as the substation arced and then went dark, cutting off power for hundreds of thousands of people.

In total, Hurricane Sandy caused nearly $70 billion dollars in damage. Most tragically, the storm claimed the lives of 233 people in 8 countries. Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, with tropical-storm-force winds spanning about 900 miles across the hurricane’s diameter.

As the storm dissipated, more than 8 million homes were in the dark. Most gas stations in New York City and New Jersey were forced to close because of power outages and dwindling fuel supplies. Many subway lines were flooded or without power.

Utility workers jumped into action alongside emergency officials, government leaders and volunteer organizations. Rescue workers helped evacuate those trapped by flooding, including the 11 engineers who were trapped in the lower Manhattan substation. Catastrophic storm response plans moved forward to restore power as quickly as possible.

In many ways, storm restoration plans started long before Hurricane Sandy was even a tropical storm. Many of the utility companies in New York and New Jersey systematically replaced older transmission lines,  pruned trees, and upgraded communications systems in preparation for the next event.

Additionally, they also worked to improve how their organizations monitored the storm and mobilized utility workers. A storm of this scale requires an immense amount of coordination, management, and communication throughout the storm response. Additional manpower is needed to restore power quickly. The logistics behind all of these moving parts is incredible.

Most utility companies choose to supplement their catastrophic storm response by engaging a storm restoration contractor, like Matrix NAC.

The ability to call in extra help is especially important to help restore service quickly. In modern times, every day without electricity is a hardship. Without power, customers have no way to charge their phones. Food spoils and the risk of fire increases when people turn to candles for lighting. In urban areas, like the ones affected by Hurricane Sandy, elevators are unable to service apartment buildings. Buildings and homes that rely on electric power for heating grow cold.

Matrix NAC supported five utility companies with 300 crew members who performed emergency storm damage repair for Hurricane Sandy. With supplemental crews, utility companies can drastically reduce the duration of the outage.

The Associated Press reported that 95 percent of New Jersey customers had service 11 days following Hurricane Sandy. In New York, 95 percent of customers had service 13 days after the storm.

The cables operated by this one company alone could wrap around the earth more than three times. Completing emergency storm damage repair in such a densely populated area is no easy feat.

However, speed isn’t everything. You also want to know that the work is done correctly. You want a crew who can perform the work at your high standards. After all, it’s your reputation on the line. The Engineering New-Record lists Matrix NAC as one of its top 100 contractors. But, it’s our repeat customers that speak to our reputation for quality work.

Finally, even in challenging circumstances, safety is still paramount. When crews are working long hours, it is especially important that additional care is taken to ensure that all of the work is completed safely. Matrix NAC reported zero incidents throughout all of our work doing emergency restoration following Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricanes continue to cause widespread damage and power outages in coastal areas. Even as meteorological science helps improve our prediction capabilities, we will never be able to prevent these powerful storms. Instead, we can focus our efforts on preparation and restoration. By providing supplemental resources, Matrix NAC can minimize disruption for our customers and their communities dealing with the impact of storm damage.

Need more information? Learn more about our emergency restoration response following Hurricane Dorian or contact us today to learn more about Matrix NAC’s storm restoration services.