Power Outages Riddle Northeastern US & Canada – Compliments of Winter Storm Hercules


A so-called polar vortex of freezing air plowed across the United States this past week, leading to hazardous conditions and record-low barometer readings. The severe blast of polar air initially affected the Midwest before scurrying over to the Eastern side of the country, closing schools, grounding flights, and forcing residents to shield exposed skin from practically instant frostbite;  Even the electrical grid was not exempt from the effects of the frigid weather.

According to National Public Radio, over 180 million people in the US were affected by this wintry phenomenon. PJM Interconnection, the grid operator for over 60 million people, recorded all-time winter highs for power usage. Not even the grid operating giant went unaffected as they lost nearly 21% of their generating power. The state of Michigan saw 600,000 homes and businesses go without electricity, while utility crews worked hard to reinstate power to more than 40,000 in Indiana. Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, the power generator in Quebec, reported that severe weather led to a shutdown of its Holyrood Generating Station, leaving 190,000 in the dark.

Power outage disturbances cost the U.S. economy between $80 billion and $188 billion dollars per year, most severely affecting the manufacturing and financial sectors. Transmission and distribution losses have increased from 5% in 1970 to 9.5% in 2001 due to heavier usage. Evan Gold, Senior Vice President at Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company, estimates over 5 billion dollars in damages following this month’s weather disaster.

President Obama announced the launch of a comprehensive analysis of US’ energy strategy and infrastructure, cautioning that substantial changes to the sector are required to address intensifying weather patterns. Several states including Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, have already drafted new laws and grant programs protecting the fuel supply industry by ensuring back-up power capacity at strategically positioned petrol stations in order to better prepare for future crises and natural disasters.

Emergency back-up power generation must be at the heart of emergency recovery as a key to safeguarding quality of life, including quick post-emergency recovery. ESL’s quick connect manual transfer switch can provide a cost-effective solution for municipalities and businesses ready to take action in preparation for the next power outage.

-Image courtesy of smaedli

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