Duke Energy predicted as many as 3 million customers across North and South Carolina could lose power as a results of Hurricane Florence. In response it will deploy 20,000 workers – a service area record – to restore power.
Duke Energy also announced Thursday morning it is shutting down a coastal North Carolina nuclear power plant ahead of Hurricane Florence. The electricity provider says it began powering down one reactor early Thursday and would start shutting the second reactor later in the day. Florence is projected to reach land Friday near the plant located about five miles from the Atlantic Ocean near Southport.
Duke Energy North Carolina President David Fountain estimated between 1 million and 3 million customers could lose power during and after the storm. The utility has about 4 million customers in the Carolinas, so that could mean as many as three out of every four customers without power, at the peak outage.
"The Carolinas are clearly in the crosshairs for Florence," Fountain said during a press conference about Duke's preparations. "Given the magnitude of the storm, this is the largest deployment of line and tree and damage assessment resources that we've had here in Duke Energy's service territories."
That includes 8,000 Duke Energy Carolinas workers as well as 1,700 workers from the Midwest and 1,200 workers from Florida. Another 9,400 from other utilities, including as far away as Texas, according to Duke Energy Storm Director Howard Fowler.
Fowler also stressed that there will almost certainly be downed power lines. Because Florence will drench the Carolinas, there will likely be power lines submerged by water, which could pose a high risk.
"I just would want to stress for everyone in this situation to stay away from downed power lines," said Fowler. "Because even though they are downed, they may still be energized, and we would not want someone to get hurt."
The Brunswick plant's two reactors share the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Federal regulators later required all U.S. nuclear plants be reinforced against earthquakes and flooding.
Duke Energy did not provide information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater if the plant floods.