Nowhere is the tremendous power of nature more evident than in a hurricane. Hurricanes are the most violent and destructive storms on earth. Extreme hurricane winds coupled with torrential rains cause massive property damage rising into the hundreds of billions of dollars and send death tolls into the thousands.
Lives are lost, people are severely injured, communities are devastated and vast tracts of land are uprooted. Storm surges along tidal lands compound with record rainfall to flood low-lying areas. Recovery from hurricane damage can take years. For some, it’s not possible.
One of the first casualties in hurricane landfall is society’s electrical distribution system. Grids are knocked out by toppling trees taking out lines or smashing winds overturning transmission towers. Entire cities, even counties, are left in the dark. It can take days or even weeks to restore power in homes, businesses, and institutions.
Fortunately, there is usually ample warning of a hurricane’s approach. Today’s weather forecasting using complex radar and satellite imagery can pick up on a hurricane’s birth when it’s a small tropical depression. Meteorologists track storms as they grow from tropical waves into tropical storms and develop into storms reaching intensity ratings as high as Category 5.
Predicting a hurricane’s approach is not precise, just as nothing in nature’s fickle weather patterns are. However, from historical patterns and years of scientific study into how hurricanes form and operate, forecasters are able to make educated assessments about which areas will be at risk and when.
Proper warning before a hurricane hits gives civic authorities, business managers and homeowners sufficient opportunity to prepare for the oncoming storm. There’s time to:
Essential services and businesses that can’t be caught with a loss of power when the grid goes down have the opportunity to import mobile generators from major equipment suppliers such as Caterpillar®.
Hurricane Matthew is the perfect example of how the vast network of Cat® Rental Power Dealers banded together in response to expected electrical outages across the southeastern states. In October 2016, Matthew slammed into the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, causing extreme devastation:
Flash flood emergencies were issued in the Carolinas due to the combination of rainfall and surge. These are rarely declared and only used in exceptionally dangerous events. Entire towns were under water, roads washed out and interstates closed. So were schools and all other non-essential services.
Only life-sustaining institutions and businesses that faced catastrophic interruption remained operating. Many of these were temporarily powered by Cat generators sourced through the dealer network across eastern America. Immediately, back-up power was delivered directly to desperate clients — the Cat dealer network exemplifying what customer service is all about.
Hurricane Matthew was a natural disaster of a similar magnitude with other well-known power outage events like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and some of the major snow and ice storms that slammed the eastern seaboard. These catastrophes also caused heavy loss of life and property damage in the billions of dollars:
Besides creating widespread power outages, Hurricanes Matthew, Sandy and Katrina had something in common. They all started the same way. Atlantic hurricanes begin as tropical depressions off the west coast of Africa just north of the equator. They require three things to get going:
A hurricane is a giant heat engine. It converts the energy of warm ocean water into powerful wind and waves. Warm water is a hurricane’s fuel. As heat rises from the ocean surface, the air is warmed by convection and continues to rise until it’s cooled in the upper atmosphere. Warm, moist air condenses and forms clouds. It also causes the cooler air to sink and cause turbulence.
Pressure drops, and warm air at the center of the depression begins to circulate with a wind pattern spiraling inward. The spirals or arms expand as the system gains energy, becoming violently fast and highly pressurized at the outer reaches. The inner core of the developing storm remains relatively calm due to the effect of low pressure. This is called the “eye” of the hurricane.
In hurricanes like Matthew, Sandy and Katrina, the eye is about 20 miles wide while the arms can extend out to hundreds of miles. As the eye’s pressure continues to drop, more air is pulled in, and the spin of the clouds in the arm increase. This violent rotation doesn’t stand still. Due to trade winds found in low latitudes, Atlantic hurricane masses travel westward across the ocean, feeding on warm water energy.
When rotating storm systems reach sustained wind speeds of 74 mph, they’re classified as a hurricane. In the northern Pacific region, these storms are called typhoons. In the South Pacific and Indian oceans, they’re referred to as cyclones. Regardless of the name, all these spiraling storms are similarly rated according to their intensity. This scale starts at Category 1 and goes up to the most severe at Category 5.
Once hurricanes reach land, they begin to lose power resulting from the loss of ocean water energy. Often, hurricanes return to the ocean after bumping into land and regain wind speed. The cycle of water-land-water repeats itself. This is exactly how Hurricane Matthew behaved.
Matthew began in late September 2016, as a tropical wave off the African coast near the Cape Verde Islands. In three days, it grew to a tropical storm near the Windward Islands and then underwent an explosive intensification. It reached the Caribbean on October 1 as a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds of 160 mph. Hurricane Matthew smashed into Haiti, lost energy and bounced back over the Atlantic Ocean.
Matthew reached the Bahamas on October 5 as a Category 4. Then it went seaward once more. By the time it reached Florida, the hurricane was full force. It paralleled the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, wreaking destruction before losing velocity in North Carolina and dropping to a Category 1 on October 8. Finally, on October 10, Matthew was declared post-tropical and dissipated off to the north.
Areas hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew were the coastal lowlands of Florida and the Carolinas. Tide levels were already at seasonal highs when the storm reached land. Matthew produced surges that amplified the water levels beyond anything experienced. The National Ocean Service recorded a new record high at Fort Pulaski, Georgia, with waters being 12.57 feet above normal.
Winds at Cape Canaveral exceeded 107 mph. Rainfall topped 17.49 inches at Savannah. For three solid days and nights, Hurricane Matthew hammered the states. One of the prime casualties was electrical power.
Here’s where some good news came in the midst of Matthew’s disaster. The Cat Rental Power dealer network rallied across the south and eastern United States to source every available portable electrical generator. With help from Gregory Poole Equipment Company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cat rental dealers all across the country banded together to help the million and a half stricken storm victims set up temporary electricity.
In the weeks after Hurricane Matthew, Cat Rental Power produced a remarkable video documenting the impressive response and professional commitment of the Cat Rental Power Dealer Network. Its actions and coordinated effort to immediately muster all available portable generator units and components were truly remarkable.
In times of crisis, independent Cat dealers across the entire region function as a single dealership to share equipment. During Hurricane Matthew, Cat dealers in locally affected areas were overwhelmed by the demand for temporary power units. Their rental supply was immediately exhausted. All participating dealers across the south and east of America sent equipment lists to dealers experiencing the crisis. Techs and equipment were then dispatched to the locations in need.
Logistics were coordinated by the primary Cat Rental Power Dealer in Matthew’s storm center. This included having fuel suppliers on call and electrical contractors retained. Reaction was swift. Overnight deliveries of power equipment were made possible by the dealer network and trucking companies. The wait was short – usually it was a matter of hours. Power generation equipment was brought in from as far away as Michigan in less than 24 hours.
The Caterpillar corporate and individual dealers combined to build this supportive network. For instance, Gregory Poole owns 150 generators and immediately sourced another 150 from as far away as Kansas and Texas. During all of Matthew’s might, no client or potential client was ever told that emergency power couldn’t be found for them.
In the touching Cat Rental Power video, dealer participants and appreciative clients give testimonial to the exemplary customer service provided by the Cat Dealer network. Even before the hurricane’s landfall, the Cat Rental Power network began planning to meet the needs of thousands of clients across the southeast U.S.
Over the entire duration of Matthew’s wrath, more than 400 megawatts of mobile power were delivered across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Hundreds of pieces of generating equipment and accessories were shipped from dealer rental fleets to desperate locations.
Recipients varied across the spectrum, from public works in Kinston, North Carolina, to Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah. They included a hospitality provider in St. Augustine Beach, Florida, and even a shrimp producer in the south who faced losing an entire business without maintaining power to run his pumps that keep his products alive.
Roger Dail, emergency services director in Lenoir County, North Carolina, said it best: “Within, you know, 48 hours, we had one delivered at the site of Lenoir County, which was a big load off our mind. You know when you put people in shelters they come with all types of needs. We now add Gregory Poole and Caterpillar to that list as a very important partner that really came through for us and that won’t be forgotten here.”
Other testimonials from the Caterpillar video include:
There’s a great outside aspect from a trucker who’s rolling equipment toward the eye of the storm. He’s heard saying, “We do a lot of trucking for a local Cat dealer out in Long Island called H.O. Penn, and they got the phone call that they needed a bunch of units brought down here for Hurricane Matthew. And we reached out to a bunch of good people that you see behind me that we supplied with a total of 34 units coming out of Connecticut, Boston, Massachusetts, and New York.”
Kevin Chmela of Yancey Power Systems really sums it all up. He says, “Caterpillar power network is an unbelievable family. We all got together, and they all provided information as far as what they had available, how quick they could get it to us, and they were all willing to help with whatever we needed from H.O. Penn in Long Island to Ring Power in Florida.”
Gregory Poole Equipment Company is proud to be part of the Cat Rental Power network. Since 1951, we’ve been building relationships across eastern North Carolina and providing excellent customer service experiences.
We’re headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, and have our own network of locations throughout the region providing new and used Cat equipment sales, rentals, parts and service. Contact us today for power system rentals.