Will Hurricane Matthew Cause Power Outages? Utility Companies Are Bracing Themselves

Down in the Caribbean, there's no doubt that Hurricane Matthew has caused plenty of problems for the electrical grid — even if that's the least of their worries. In Les Cayes, Haiti, on the country's south coast, there were reports of Matthew-caused power outages. But across the country, the news is much bleaker. Some 2,200 homes were destroyed, and far more were damaged. So given the strength of the storm, is this something that can be expected in the U.S.? Will Hurricane Matthew cause power outages? Already, communities from Florida up the East Coast are preparing for just that. Plus, in past hurricanes, we've seen the same.

The Sun-Sentinel is reporting that Florida Power & Light has done plenty to prepare for the storm, but outages could still occur. That's the electricity company which provides power for about nine million of Florida's 20 million inhabitants. In the last 10 years, the company has spent $3 billion on upgrades to its power grid, and they say they are prepared for a Category 4 storm with winds up to 145 miles per hour. But even with all the preparedness, their official take from Manuel Miranda, senior vice president for power delivery, is this:

We're in significantly a better position than we've ever been. Our ability to restore [power] is significantly quicker.

In other words, there will probably still be outages. They blame the potential for downed trees. And they're probably right. The odds are good that some people will be without power. If you look at Hurricane Hermine for comparison, which was just a Category 1 storm when it made landfall, you'll see it doesn't take much to cause problems. The morning Hermine made landfall, thousands were without power in Florida.

The degree of the outages depended on location in the state and which utility company was in charge. Notably, Florida Power & Light said that 99.75 percent of their customers had power by 10:18 a.m. So maybe those investments are worth it. By my math, that quarter of a percent is still nearly 23,000 people, though.

In Tallahassee, about 100,000 people were without power at the peak of the problems. And if downed trees are often the cause, this might also give you an understanding of why it can take days or even weeks in some of the worst-hit areas to get power back on. Just in the city and the surrounding county alone, The Tallahassee Democrat reported 680 different calls about downed trees. Quite a job for the crews out working to get power back.

The odds are that most of the problems will be in Florida or in the South, but there are no guarantees. Hurricane Sandy affected power in New York City. ConEdison, the city and surrounding area's main utility, reported 800,000 people were without power during the worst of that storm. So if you're anywhere near the storm's path, you might want to stock up on candles and flashlights. There's no 100 percent certainty when mother nature is involved.