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The Town has also been asked questions about how hurricanes and strong storms would impact the new underground utility system. In light of recent events, we believe it is pertinent to share these undergrounding FACTs with you.
How is undergrounding more reliable during hurricanes and storms?
The most damage to utilities comes from hurricanes, tornados and strong storms that rip down overhead power lines, damage utility poles and cause electrical and utility outages. These damaged lines cause fires and safety hazards for residents and cars on roadways.
The Town of Palm Beach has pump stations installed to pump storm water out of low lying areas however, if there is flooding, utility repair crews will not repair any lines or equipment in standing water. During flooding, debris can impact poles causing them to fall over, strong currents can cause poles to topple and saturated ground can weaken utility poles’ foundations making them prone to future collapse. Power can also be lost because of wind and debris damage to overhead lines. Undergrounded utilities are not impervious however, they perform better during strong storms because they are not impacted by high winds that cause overhead utility failures.
A new electrical system that is underground will improve reliability for everyone and make Palm Beach a more resilient community.
How do underground utilities withstand water or flooding?
Transformers are water resistant and rest on pad mounts to keep them off the ground.
Underground utility lines are secure and completely waterproof. Any water that touches the utility lines actually helps their efficiency by cooling down the utility lines.
Utility lines that provide power to the Town today are undergrounded below the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Town already has over 30 miles of underground utilities and approximately 380 pad mounted transformers.
Town emergency management and engineering experts all agree that undergrounding is a plan that will work in Palm Beach.
What does FPL say about undergrounding?
Florida Power & Light agrees undergrounding is more reliable during strong storms.
“FPL’s underground facilities’ reliability …was better than overhead facilities.” [2010-2014]
“Overhead facilities can be impacted more than underground facilities by wind ….”
Undergrounding has “Better reliability in normal AND adverse weather conditions…Fewer number of power interruptions…No poles or overhead wires”
Have other barrier islands undergrounded their utilities? How are they impacted during storms?
Undergrounding has successfully been done on the barrier island communities of Jupiter Island, Jupiter Inlet Colony and Gulf Stream, which are similar to Palm Beach.
Hurricane impacts on Palm Beach
During Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016, Palm Beach had severe power disruption while other communities with underground utilities had limited impacts.
Matthew disrupted power throughout the entire North End of the Town of Palm Beach north of Wells Road and for about half the customers in the Midtown area. Power was fully restored two days after the storm passed. Due to damage from the storm, a week later another power failure occurred for more than 500 North End residents. That outage, which lasted more than four hours, was caused by a main power line that was damaged during the storm.
Meanwhile, during this same hurricane, three communities that have undergrounded or have begun undergrounding their utilities, Jupiter Inlet Colony, Jupiter Island and Gulf Stream, experienced a much different outcome during Hurricane Matthew.
Jupiter Inlet Colony impacts during Hurricane Matthew
“I am pleased to report that we never lost electrical power throughout the entire storm. Comcast customers had no problems throughout the night. Best investment we ever made and our residents are thanking us for doing it.”
Mayor Daniel J. Comerford III
Jupiter Island impacts during Hurricane Matthew
“We are not aware of any flooding on the Island. We had no reports of lost power within the Town of Jupiter Island.”
Gene Rauth, Town Manager
Gulf Stream impacts during Hurricane Matthew
We did not lose power in the storm, which had sustained 40-mile-an-hour winds and 60-mile-an-hour gusts. It’s the first time ever, where I live, that occurred. And of course that’s occurring after we went underground.”
Mayor Scott Morgan
The Town of Palm Beach is prepared for hurricanes and strong storms. Undergrounding utilities will improve reliability during hurricanes and ensure safer roadways and streets that may be impacted by overhead utilities coming down.
Post Office Box 2029 • 360 South County Road • Palm Beach, Florida 33480
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