Helena was no Jonas
2017's first storm left less damage, set no records
The year's first storm brought cold that challenged Duke Energy's Carolina generation and delivery efforts without the extensive transmission system damage of four storms the previous three years.
Jonas was 30 hours of snow, sleet, freezing rain and high winds that battered Duke's North and South Carolina service area on January 22/23, 2016; leaving 604,000 customers without power, the utility said in June when it announced receipt of Edison Electric Institute's Emergency Recovery Award for its power restoration efforts after the storm.
That was half the roughly 1.2 million outages 25 utilities reported to the Department of Energy after Jonas roared across the South and up the East Coast.
Duke noted it has earned the award 12 times since the trade association began presenting it in 1998. The 11th time was in March 2015 for the utility's efforts after two severe winter storms in the Carolinas in February and March 2014.
It started early Saturday
Helena hit Duke's Carolina system between 1 and 2 a.m. Saturday, leaving 5,500 without power, including 3,000 in the Raleigh area, according to the utility's outage map. Outages peaked late Saturday morning at over 25,000 with 10,000 of those in Charlotte and south of the city in Union County.
Energy Department data from other utilities won't be available until Monday afternoon. (The information is reported in Energy Assurance Daily, which is not published on weekends and holidays. It can be seen at http://www.oe.netl.doe.gov/ead.aspx .)
Georgia Power reported It had restored service to more than 67,000 customers as of 7 p.m. Saturday, adding there were still about 1,500 customers without power statewide.
Helena's real test comes Monday morning when the lowest temperatures of the weekend are expected when everybody wakes up for the first business day of the week as schools and business turn everything on, ending the weekend shutdown.
The bitter cold stress test
The forecasts call for the coldest temperatures since February 2015 – a bitter cold that "will put higher stress on equipment used to generate and deliver electricity," Duke Energy Progress said in a Sunday evening email to customers, adding it "has a detailed plan to manage the power grid in extreme conditions and we are executing that plan."
In the hour ending 8 a.m. February 20, 2015 – a Friday, utilities throughout the Carolinas and Virginia recorded all-time peak energy usage records in the hour ending at 8 a.m. Duke Energy Progress customers consumed a record 15,575 megawatt-hours of electricity during the hour.
Demand this weekend peaked at 85% of that level – 13,262 MWH in the hour ending at 9 a.m. Sunday, according to EIA’s U.S. Electric System Operating Data. That was about 5% under forecast the report on U.S. electricity demand said. It can be seen at http://www.eia.gov/beta/realtime_grid/#/status?end=20170108T10.
Saturday afternoon, however, demand was as much as 15.34% above forecast in Eastern North Carolina, the Energy Information Administration report said.