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2017 Hurricane Season & Energy: Impacts, Dangers and More

If you’ve read the news in recent weeks, it’s become extremely clear that hurricane season is upon the United States. While hurricane season itself isn’t unusual, the fact that so many of these storms are making landfall in places like Texas and Florida is. The problem with hurricanes making landfall is that they can cause incredible damage in a short period of time.

With winds between 74 (category 1) to 154 (category 5) mph, and an average rainfall of 5 – 15 inches, power lines can break, poles can topple over, and the power in your home can go out — and these are just some of the minor impacts.

2017 Hurricane Season — So Far

Every year, meteorologists attempt to provide an estimate of the kind of hurricane season we can expect. As you can imagine, predicting this kind of activity is extremely difficult. The initial report in April indicated that only 11 storms would form, and of those 11, only 4 hurricanes would develop. This estimate changed significantly only a month later, when meteorologists warned that we should expect a 45% chance of a higher than average storm season.

This warning certainly lived up to its expectation. To date, 6 hurricanes have developed across the Atlantic Ocean, including:

What makes this hurricane season particularly devastating is that 2 of the 6 — Harvey and Irma — have made landfall in the United States. As mentioned, when a hurricane makes landfall, the potential impacts on energy and electricity (not to mention property and people) can be devastating.

Harvey

Both Texas and Louisiana declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm, causing many citizens to leave their homes in search of safety.

The results of Hurricane Harvey were and are heartbreaking. Across the state of Texas, over 300,000 residents, businesses and tourists were left without power. It is not yet clear the total amount of property damage that was sustained, but early estimates suggest that it will costs billions in repair. In addition, about 30,000 people were displaced, while 13,000 required rescue.

Louisiana also suffered from significant property damage. Instead of dissipating like most hurricanes after making landfall, Harvey remained quite strong at a category 4. In some areas, houses, schools and landmarks were completely destroyed due to winds that reached 132 mph. Rainfall reached 15+ inches, and in some areas, 4 feet. Thanks to early warnings, most people had time to evacuate, leaving 500 people to be rescued and 269 people in shelters.

Irma

Irma has recently made landfall in Florida as a category 4 hurricane, and as it moves has been downgraded to a category 1. It has already caused significant damage for St Maarten and Cuba but the damage is not yet clear for the United States. More updates will be available by news outlets soon.

Impacts on the Energy Grid

When there is so much damage done to property, energy is inevitably impacted. With wind gusts reaching 132 mph poles, wires, and hydro towers snap and topple. As a result, the power goes out just as the energy industry is forced to a halt (along with everyone else).

In general, there are several impacts to energy during hurricane season. All of these impacts apply to those areas affected today including,

Power Outages

This is the most common impact and it is the one that has the greatest immediate affect on people.

While many people left their homes or sought shelter elsewhere, power outages still occurred throughout the duration of both Harvey and Irma. Power outages can really make life difficult and dangerous for those who are stranded and those who belong to rescue and evacuation teams.

Many people light candles during power outages, which can cause fires if the individual isn’t careful. Many also require alternative methods for cooking food, or keeping their supplies from spoiling. It can take days or weeks for crews to get the power back up and running, which makes power outages even worse for those who remain in their home, hotels, or even storm shelters. Crews working on the power need to watch out for live downed power lines, and with so much water flooding the streets they need to approach their work with extreme caution.

Oil & Gas Production

When a hurricane makes landfall, everyone needs to get to safety. This means that employees can’t get to work, which means that businesses remain closed. Oil and gas companies are no different. Oil and gas production in Texas during Harvey saw a small, short disruption as many production companies closed during the height of the storm. According to Forbes, this will have a small impact on the market over the next couple of weeks. The good news is, there should not be any major impacts to availably or shortages in gas. It might, however, take some time for Texas, Louisiana and Florida to receive gas shipments.

Without gas, it’s impossible for people to use their vehicles. In fact, before Harvey, many people were not able to evacuate because there just wasn’t enough gas to go around. When people can’t leave their homes, it increases the possibility for casualties and injury.

Oil & Gas Storage & Transportation

This leads us to oil and gas transportation storage. Many shipping areas closed in Texas due to the impacts from Harvey, which means that exports will require some time to get back on their feet. Imports however seem to be running smoothy, which is great news to those in need.

There is also additional good news for energy regarding storage. Most of the areas where oil and gas is produced have enough storage to last for quite some time. That being said, the government does not believe that accessing the stored oil and gas will be necessary at this time.

The Dangers

Hurricanes the size and strength of Harvey and Irma significantly increase the dangers associated to remaining in the area. Residents, tourists and businesses across Texas, Louisiana and Florida were strongly encouraged to seek shelter and remain indoors during the height of the storms. When you consider the impacts to electricity caused by both wind and rain, it is so important to heed these warnings for your own safety and wellbeing.

Downed power lines and poles are no laughing matter. Live wires cause death or injury to people who come into contact with them. When you add rain, it becomes even more difficult to see or notice if there are live wires in your area. It is important to use extreme caution when leaving your residence, especially as floodwaters recede. If possible, try the radio for live updates on your area.

Preparing for the Storm

Due to Harvey and Irma, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. In these kinds of emergency situations, it is so important to listen to officials. Your safety is their primary concern. You take your life into your own hands if you do not do as you are told.

There are many tips on how to prepare your home or business for a hurricane, as well as what to do during a hurricane including,

It is not yet clear the lasting effects that Harvey and Irma will have on the United States. In particular, it is not yet clear the kind of effect they will have on energy. The good news is, there are folks from all over the world looking out for those trapped in the areas affected, sending supplies and help where needed.