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After Gordon made landfall, Alabama Power says it 'dodged a bullet'


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After Gordon made landfall, Alabama Power says it 'dodged a bullet'

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Two men watch the waves crash at Dauphin Island, Ala., as Tropical Storm Gordon approached on Sept. 4, 2018.
Source: Associated Press

Electric utilities in Alabama and Mississippi are still working to restore power after Tropical Storm Gordon made landfall, but one company said it "definitely dodged a bullet" regarding outages that could have been worse.

Gordon first passed over the southern tip of Florida on the morning of Sept. 3, with utilities there reporting they were virtually unaffected by the storm. But as Gordon traveled northwest through the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center placed the southern edges of Alabama and Mississippi under a hurricane warning, prompting power providers there to mobilize in preparation for a second landfall.

The storm's center hit just west of the Alabama-Mississippi border at 10:30 p.m. CT on Sept. 4, with the National Hurricane Center reporting maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and warning of life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.

Alabama Power Co. spokesman Michael Sznajderman said in an email that the utility peaked at about 25,000 outages overnight. The Southern Co. subsidiary serves more than 1.4 million customers, and about 14,000 of them in the Mobile, Ala., area were without power as of 9:40 a.m. CT on Sept. 5.

Sznajderman added that Alabama Power hopes to bring back power to "the vast majority" of those residents by the end of Sept. 5. The utility deployed extra workers to the state's coastline to assist with restoration efforts.

"Overall, this could have been much worse," Sznajderman wrote. When Alabama Power experiences a severe summer thunderstorm, the utility typically logs 25,000 outages, he added, so Gordon causing a similar level of blackouts was welcome news. "We definitely dodged a bullet."

Mississippi Power Co., sister utility of Alabama Power, saw just 8,600 peak outages, spokesman Jack Bonnikson said in an email. As of 8:30 a.m. CT on Sept. 5, there were about 200 outages, he reported, adding that Mississippi Power expects to have all its customers restored by noon CT.

Entergy Mississippi Inc. spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said in an email that the utility experienced a peak of 825 outages, with that figure at 431 as of 10:15 a.m. CT. She added that the Entergy Corp. subsidiary does not known when all its customers will be restored, as Gordon is still in the area and Entergy has not yet been able to assess all its infrastructure. "We expect more damage to come," she added.

"Any time we can make it through a tropical storm with as few outages as we've had so far, we consider it a win for the company and our customers," Hartmann wrote. "If the low number of outages hold, we anticipate this to be a fairly quick restoration in areas where there's not significant damage."

The coastlines of Alabama and Mississippi were downgraded by the National Hurricane Center to a tropical storm warning at 1 a.m. CT on Sept. 5, with that area cleared of any warnings at 4 a.m. CT the same day. The federal agency at 7 a.m. CT reported no sustained winds of tropical-storm force anywhere along Gordon's path, with the weather pattern classified as a tropical depression.