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Hurricane Michael knocking out power, shutting down transportation

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Hurricane Michael made landfall only a few hours ago, but it’s Category 5 winds of 155 mph have already done a lot of damage.

According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, as of late afternoon on Wednesday more than 192,000 households and businesses in the state didn’t have electricity because of Michael. Nearly 119,000 of those customer get their electricity from Gulf Power, which supplies electricity to people in northwest Florida. Around 20,000 Duke Energy customers on the Florida panhandle are also without power. 

The City of Tallahassee’s website showed more than 45,000 customers without electricity. The city tweeted that power line and tree removal crews from several other areas will help with restoration. Red Cross, along with other relief and logistics organizations, have arrived from other parts of the state and the country to help. 

Utility companies expect tens to hundreds of thousands of additional outages across the panhandle, southwest Georgia, southeast Alabama, and possibly the Carolinas as Michael continues its destructive path through the region during the next couple days. It could take weeks to get electricity and other damaged utilities back up and running. 

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) tweeted that the Garcon Point Bridge in Santa Ross County has been shut down due to storm conditions. So far only one section of I-10 has been closed, but the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) expects many closures along I-10 and other routes. SERT is urging people to stay off the roads. Relief crews will need to be able to do their jobs as efficiently as possible without unnecessary traffic in the way. Some of them may have enough trouble as it is with debris blocking streets. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration continued with its regional suspension of numerous rules. The emergency declaration lifts a wide range of restrictions, including hours of service rules, for carriers assisting with emergency relief efforts. The definition of assistance is “supporting emergency relief efforts transporting supplies, equipment, fuel and persons into and from the affected states and jurisdictions.” The states covered by the declaration are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. 

Meanwhile, Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) suspended train operations between Jacksonville, Florida and Atlanta due to Michael. Shippers should expect 12 hour delays until service is resumed following inspections of the track. The railroad said all intermodal facilities continue to operate under normal hours, but may be subject to closures depending on Michael’s progress. 

Southeastern U.S. ports taking precautions against Hurricane Michael, but remain open to commercial traffic. The Coast Guard has closed Port Panama City, which handles shipments of copper, linerboard, wood pulp, steel plate, steel pipe, steel coils and flexible pipe. The Port of Pensacola is also closed. 

 Satellite image of Hurricane Michael at landfall in Florida on October 10, 2018.  (Photo: NOAA)
Satellite image of Hurricane Michael at landfall in Florida on October 10, 2018. (Photo: NOAA)

Oil and gas production cuts in the Gulf of Mexico because of the storm rose between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement. While inspections will need to be undertaken, the path of the storm was east of the main production areas and significant damage to any platforms is probably unlikely. 

BSEE reported Wednesday that 718,877 b/d of oil output was shut in, accounting for 42.3% of Gulf of Mexico production. (Given that world oil output is close to 100-million b/d, this would constitute less than 1% of daily global output.) A day earlier, it was just under 40% of Gulf production. Natural gas shut-ins total 812 MMcf/d, or 31.7% of output. That was only a slight increase from the 28.4% reported a day earlier. The number of platforms evacuated rose to 89 from 75 a day earlier. 

The two main lines of the Colonial Pipeline, which takes oil products through the southeast and up into the New York and Washington areas, were “not in the line of the storm,” according to a Colonial statement quoted by S&P Global Platts. Colonial has been impacted in the past by power outages and the oil products markets generally are concerned with that occurrence during a storm, rather than any damage to the facility.

 

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Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.
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