The electric power industry launched a rapid response in the wake of unusually severe and long-lasting thunderstorms—known as a "super derecho"—that swept across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions on Friday night. A derecho is defined as a long-lived wind storm that can travel for hundreds of miles with damage generally following a straight path. This is where the term "straight line winds" come from. The powerful thunderstorms travel very fast and as they accelerate, the storms sometimes tend to "bow." That can result in wind gusts between 60 and 100 mph.
Edison Electric Institute (EEI) member companies are currently working around the clock to assess the damage and restore power to roughly 4.3 million customers without power across 10 states and the District of Columbia.
EEI and its member companies ask customers for their understanding during the restoration process. Each company’s restoration plan focuses on restoring power to the greatest number of customers as safely and quickly as possible, starting with power plants and affected transmission lines and substations; then critical facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire stations; main thoroughfares that host supermarkets, gas stations, and other essential community services; and, finally, individual neighborhoods. It may take many days for power to be restored to all customers because of the widespread nature of the outages and destruction.
Safety is key during a power outage—for line workers working hard to swiftly get the lights back on, and for customers in areas affected by extreme weather like a heat wave. If you are experiencing a power outage in hot weather, close the drapes and blinds on the sunny side of your house, drink plenty of fluids, take your pets to a cool basement location, and go to an air-conditioned civic center, mall, or library if necessary to stay cool.
The following are some additional safety tips recommended by the American Red Cross:
- Electrical equipment: Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics. Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment. Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on. Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
- Using generators safely: When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to your home’s electrical system.
- Additional power industry safety recommendations: During and after an outage, “Safety First” is the highest priority for utilities and their customers. You should stay away from downed power lines or fallen trees and standing water, which could conceal live wires. Report downed power lines to your local utilities or call 911.
If windows or the roof leak significantly, water could come into contact with wiring in the walls. You are advised to turn off circuit breakers, wall switches, and disconnect electrical appliances—but not if this requires standing in water. Portable generators must be used only outdoors in order to avoid exposure to dangerous carbon monoxide.
You are strongly encouraged when possible to seek additional safety tips from your electric companies’ Web sites.
Please visit the American Red Cross Web site for complete information.
To learn more about safety precautions you can take during a power outage, check out EEI’s Web site.