There was no calm before the storm in the energy industry Tuesday as power companies of all types prepared for whatever Hurricane Florence hurls at the Triad.
Utilities that serve the Triad lined up resources throughout the day and made contingency plans as they awaited more definitive information on where the storm would hit and how far inland its destructive tentacles might reach.
Systems making preparations across the region included Duke Energy, its subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas and fuel transporters Colonial Pipeline Co. and Kinder Morgan that each own separate pipelines that traverse large sections of Guilford County.
As the utilities readied themselves for what could be a historically bad situation, Duke Energy urged customers to do likewise, suggesting that people plan ahead for losing power or facing other disruptions for several days or longer — just in case.
“We really do anticipate widespread impact,” Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie said.
The National Weather Service expects the hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina on Friday.
Archie said that Duke Energy planners already are marshaling repair crews from the company’s Midwest and Florida divisions, and also preparing to bring in help from other utilities elsewhere in the country.
Many people know the threat posed by downed power lines and other storm-related damage to the electrical grid. Duke Energy warns that all storm-damaged lines, whether fallen or sagging, should be considered live and fully energized along with “trees, limbs or anything in contact with the lines.”
Customers of Duke Energy Carolinas should call 800-769-3766 to report power line problems.
But the flooding often associated with major storms also can mean trouble for gas service, meters and appliances, especially in low-lying areas, said Jennifer Sharpe of Piedmont Natural Gas.
Potential problems stem from submerged meters or gas-powered appliances in such areas, Sharpe said. Other damage can occur to compressor stations that keep gas moving through the lines and to smaller, household service lines that can be damaged by uprooted trees, she said.
Whatever damage a bystander or customer observes, Sharpe’s advice is the same: Don’t try to fix it yourself. Simply alert the gas company at 800-752-7504.
“If the meter or an appliance has been flooded, they should call us immediately,” Sharpe said. “We will know what areas have been flooded and we’re going to be out in those areas.”
Like Archie, Sharpe said that Piedmont will work through an industry association to bring in repair crews as needed from other parts of the country in the storm’s aftermath.
Meanwhile, officials at both pipeline companies said their networks were operating normally Tuesday, but they added that company officials were actively planning their response if the storm causes problems along either route through North Carolina and South Carolina.
“Preparedness plans include securing buildings and warehouses, isolating power systems, and removing operations personnel to ensure their safety and to ensure that qualified personnel are able to resume operations following the storm,” Kinder Morgan staff member Lexey Long said.
The Plantation Pipeline begins near Baton Rouge, La., and ends near Washington. The Colonial network extends from the Houston area across the Southeast to the New York City metro.
Both pipelines supply parts of the tank farm west of Greensboro and then continue through the city’s lake area north of town.
Duke Energy’s meteorology staff said as early as Sunday that customers should expect “widespread damage and power outages as Hurricane Florence is forecast to be a large and extremely dangerous storm system, packing fierce winds and torrential rainfall.”
Depending on where it hits and how hard, “total power restoration could take multiple days to several weeks,” the power company warned.