This story was originally published in 2011 to cover Hurricane Irene. The information about storm preparedness is still crucial this storm season.
On Sunday, Hurricane Irene weakened to become Tropical Storm Irene – but not before leaving at least 4 million homes without power and causing fuel shortages along the United States' Atlantic coast. This hurricane brought on-land wind speeds of more than 85 mph in the continental United States, and maintained its hurricane status through most of its trek north. Though the storm had diminished by the time it hit New York today, it still carried 65-mph winds and drenching rain. With this wind came downed power lines and poles along the entire East Coast, leaving many stranded without power.
The good news is that the East Coast knew that this storm was coming. As David Biello said on Thursday – it’s best to be prepared. And, thanks to our nation’s storm tracking abilities, East Coast utilities were able to ready road crews so they could repair power lines that were taken down by the high winds. Power plants lying within Irene’s projected path were able to prepare their facilities to be hit by the wind and rain, helping them to avoid extended supply disruptions.
But, even with this preparation, millions of Americans were faced with unplanned power outages – which is no surprise when you look at the size and complexity of the United States electric grid.
When the first power plants were built in the United States, they were located close to their customers – generally within a few miles. But, over time this distance has increased with growing populations, increasing electricity demand, and the electrification of rural America.
Today, there are more than 160,000 miles of transmission lines (the huge silver towers that you see along the road) and millions of miles of distribution lines running through the United States. While some of these lines run underground – especially in dense urban settings – the majority run overhead, supported by poles and towers. This web of wires moves electricity from the nation’s power plants to our homes and offices, supplying electricity whenever we demand it.
[Note: There is a great U.S. grid visualization tool available on NPR’s website]
Thank you for your patience during our recent Comments outage. Comments have returned, including comments on previous stories & blogs before the outage. As before, Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
The Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board issued notices of violation to the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles regarding undisclosed engine management software.
The storm that brought rare and disruptive snow to Spain this week will track across the Mediterranean Sea through early next week, further burying earthquake-ravaged central Italy.
A major storm is impacting California, bringing flooding rain and heavy mountain snow to the state.
Avid runners can continue to train outdoors in the colder months as long as they keep in mind certain tips for dressing and safety.
Welcome rain may return to northern India later next week, sweeping away the persistent fog and haze but only for a brief time.
Thunderstorms with damaging winds, flooding downpours, hail and tornadoes will threaten lives and property in the southern United States starting Friday night.
From a deadly avalanche in Italy to disruptive ice storms in the central and northwestern U.S., here are this week's biggest weather stories.
A major snowstorm may develop over the central United States early next week along the leading edge of a new invasion of cold air.