Duke Energy Braces for Second Hurricane Hit as Michael Nears Florida

(Bloomberg) -- Utilities are warning that lights in the Carolinas may go out for the second time in a month, thanks to Hurricane Michael.

Duke Energy Corp. said Michael may trigger outages, some lasting for several days, in North Carolina and South Carolina. In Florida, the Charlotte-based company is warning that as many as 200,000 customers in the panhandle could lose power, potentially for “multiple days to over a week,” according to a statement Tuesday.

Southern Co.’s Gulf Power utility said it expects the worst from Michael in Panama City and warned customers to prepare for “tropical storm-force winds, which could lead to prolonged, widespread outages,” according to a statement Tuesday. Gulf Power has about 457,000 customers in the region.

Michael, with winds reaching 145 miles (233 kilometers) an hour, is poised to be the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. since 2004. Landfall in Florida’s panhandle is expected Wednesday before the storm sweeps across Georgia and the Carolinas. It would be the second hurricane to strike the U.S. in a month, after Hurricane Florence delivered record flooding in the Carolinas and knocked out power to about 1.5 million Duke customers.

Duke Energy Braces for Second Hurricane Hit as Michael Nears Florida

Michael is churning 28-foot waves in the Gulf, and could bring a 14-foot surge and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain, with some isolated areas in the panhandle getting as much as 12 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center. It may dump 3 to 6 inches of rain on the Carolinas. Nine rivers in the Carolinas that are still swollen from Hurricane Florence are expected to see additional flooding, according to FEMA.

About 2,500 Duke customers in Florida and 1,200 Gulf power customers were without power as of 9:30 a.m., according to company websites.

South Carolina’s Santee Cooper utility is preparing for heavier than normal rains but doesn’t expect flooding from Michael to breach coal-ash ponds that were inundated by the remnants of Hurricane Florence, said Mollie Gore, a spokeswoman.

“We’re watching it closely but we don’t expect any flooding this time,” Gore said by phone.

Scana Corp.’s utility in South Carolina has warned customers of the potential for significant power outages.

Duke Energy said utility crews would be working to address outages as soon as it’s safe to do so. Florence made landfall Sept. 14 in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm after weakening from Category 4 status.

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