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Lessons learned from Hurricane Ida's destruction

Ida power grid
Posted at 11:52 AM, Sep 23, 2021

Nearly a month after Hurricane Ida roared across the Gulf Coast, communities across the country are looking at the damage caused by the monster storm and trying to use it as a model to be more prepared for natural disasters in the future.

Power lines were twisted and turned by winds nearing 150 mph. Officials believe some 30,000 utility poles were toppled by the storm leaving close to 1 million people in the dark. Weeks after the storm hit, many residents in Louisiana still don't have electricity.

So, what can other cities and states learn from this natural disaster?

Scott Aaronson, the VP of security preparedness for the Edison Electric Institute, offered some insight about lessons communities can learn from Ida.

"This was really a wind event and wind events tend to snap poles, take infrastructure down. Hurricane Ida was probably one of the most destructive storms we've seen from an infrastructure perspective," he noted.

Aaronson says climate change is forcing communities nationwide to look hard at their disaster plans when it comes to infrastructure like power grids.

"The thing about disasters is it really depends where you are in the country. Everybody experiences them differently," he added.

To better prepare for more intense storms, some utility companies are moving away from wooden power poles. Wooden poles come with higher fire risk and aren't as sturdy as steel poles during high wind events. But most power grids just can't sustain 150 mph winds.

It's also not just hurricanes impacting the nation's electric grid. In California, utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines to prevent them from fraying and causing wildfires. But the project comes with a price tag of $15 billion.

Aaronson says these types of natural disasters need to be wake-up calls to communities about the importance of having preparedness plans in place.

"Understanding how to invest in infrastructure based on the hazards you face and the region you live in is something electric companies and elected officials have to wrestle with for years to come."