‘Catastrophic damage’ to power grid in Georgia after Hurricane Michael

FPL crews gather at a Jupiter substation Wednesday morning, Oct. 10, 2018, before leaving for North Florida to help restore power after Category-4 Hurricane Michael hits the area. The ten 2-3 person crews will join more than 1,300 crews from across Florida staging in Lake City, Daytona Beach and Sarasota. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Hurricane Michael has caused "catastrophic damage" to electric infrastructure in the state, according to Georgia EMCs, and it will likely be several days before power is fully restored.

“We know it’s going to be a while,” said Terri Statham, a spokesperson for the EMCs. “A couple of EMCs have lost their entire distribution network.”

Statham said 68 substations and multiple high-voltage transmission lines were completely out of service. She cautioned that there would be “extensive delays” getting power restored across middle and south Georgia and encouraged people to make temporary arrangements to move to somewhere with power, especially if they have medical needs.

“I can’t tell you how long it’s going to be,” she said. “Multiple days.”

Help has arrived from Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to restore power.

In a statement, the EMCs said similar damage had not been seen for decades, and called the impact “sobering.” About 177,000 EMC customers are without power; statewide, about 300,000 households did not have electricity Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, more than 400,000 households didn’t have power.

Georgia Power had 116,000 customers without electricity Thursday afternoon, and had restored power to more than 230,000 customers. The hardest-hit areas were middle and south Georgia, but outages were reported statewide.  The worst impacts were around Albany, Americus, Bainbridge, Macon, Valdosta and Vidalia.

Georgia Power is still assessing the damage caused by the storm and is working to repair about 2,700 broken poles or power lines.

In Fulton County, there were 4,000 households without power at 5 a.m. and in Chatham County, there were 5,400. Bibb County had about 9,000 people without power and Richmond County had 6,000.

John Kraft, a Georgia Power spokesperson, said the system is designed to automatically reroute power around damaged areas where it is possible.

He urged people to be careful of downed wires when they ventured outside.

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