N.C. utilities prep for hurricane season

Posted May 21, 2009 9:49 a.m. EDT

Progress Energy has enlisted Twitter, an online social networking tool, in its efforts to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season which begins June 1.

"Here in the Carolinas, hurricanes are a fact of life, "said Lloyd Yates, president and CEO of Progress Energy Carolinas. "We have to plan for the possibility of major storms damaging the electric system our customers depend on. We know our customers rely on us to restore service quickly after storms and to keep them informed."

This year, customers will be able to follow Progress Energy's storm restoration efforts on Twitter. The online service can be accessed by cell phones even when power is out.

Coastal Brunswick County's Emergency Services has also launched a Twitter account to post updates about fires, wrecks, closed roads and bad weather, including hurricanes.

Progress Energy aims to mobilize thousands of employees and outside resources to respond to power outages in the event that a storm hits its 34,000-square-mile service area.

In the past decade, the utility has worked to reduce restoration time and costs, winning five of 11 annual Emergency Response awards from the Edison Electric Institute.

"We practice and refine our storm response throughout the year to ensure that we're prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings our way," Yates said. "The start of hurricane season is also a good reminder for our customers to ensure they have their own storm plan in place."

Forecasters have predicted that the 2009 hurricane season will be less active than last year's, when eight of 16 named storms developed into hurricanes.

Researchers at North Carolina State University said that between 11 and 14 storms will develop in the Atlantic and that six to eight of them will become hurricanes. At Colorado State University, researchers forecast 12 named storms, including six hurricanes.

North Carolina ranks first in the number of nighttime tornado fatalities in the US and 15th in total tornado deaths.

On June 3, at 7 p.m., WRAL-TV takes a look at advancements in forecasting and how future fatalities may be prevented. Tune in to "Focal Point: Twist of Fate," hosted by WRAL News anchor and reporter Kelcey Carlson.