Assessing Hurricane Sandy's energy impacts

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yesterday Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, but the magnitude of the storm meant that heavy winds, strong rains, and a powerful coastal storm surge affected a broad swath of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern parts of the United States.

One consequence of the storm is widespread power outages.  As of 8:00 AM yesterday, about 36,000 electricity customers had lost power in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Virginia.  By 2:00 PM yesterday, outages were up to over 316,000, in the states listed above as well as in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.  At that time, New York had the most outages (105,089 customers, or about 1%), but New Hampshire was the hardest hit in terms of percentage affected (18,190 customers, or about 3%).  These reported outages came six hours before the storm officially made landfall, making outage numbers much higher today -- some reports indicating 8 million customers without power.

[Update: as of 9:00 AM this morning, the Department of Energy reports 8.1 million customers without electricity, including 62% of New Jersey, 31% of Connecticut, and 23% of Rhode Island.]

In addition to these power outages, some electricity generating facilities have shut down.  The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports three nuclear power units in the Northeastern United States had to shut down and two units reduced as a result of impacts from Hurricane Sandy.  Reasons range from water pump failure to encroaching high water to problems on the external power grid.

Another consequence of the storm is disruption to oil refineries.  By 1:00 PM yesterday, two mid-Atlantic refineries had closed, with four more shutting down part of their production.  In total, 1.1 million barrels per day of refining capacity had been disrupted due to the storm.

Today, as the storm has moved inland, crews are working hard to recover from the storm.  It is still early to assess the total damage from the storm, as well as whether its disruption to energy infrastructure will be temporary or longer-lasting.

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