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Hurricane Isaias projected to strafe eastern side of Florida over the weekend

Highlights

Uncertainty over where it may make landfall

Utilities and energy companies to keep close eye

Houston — In a late July 31 advisory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center said heavy rains associated with Hurricane Isaias could begin to affect south and east central Florida late Friday night and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash flooding.

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NOAA said the Category 1 hurricane was expected to reach the east coast of Florida on Saturday morning.

It said that storm surge along the northeastern Florida coast could come late in the weekend, and spread northward along the remainder of the US East Coast through early next week.

Florida Power & Light said July 31 it had a restoration workforce of more than 10,000 "ready to respond to Hurricane Isaias amid the global COVID-19 pandemic."

It said it will bring in crews from sister company Gulf Power and has secured more than 2,000 additional restoration personnel from nearly 10 states. "We are committed to restoring service in between bands of severe weather, as long as winds are below 35 MPH," the company said.

FPL owns the two-reactor, 1,600-MW Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station located two miles east of Homestead, Florida, and about 25 miles south of Miami.

According to preliminary mapping of Isaias' path, the Turkey Point facility may escape the storm's more severe western rain bands on Saturday.

FPL's 1,880-MW St. Lucie Nuclear facility located further up the Florida coast on Hutchinson Island, may not be so lucky. The center of the storm eye could pass offshore of the St. Lucie facility early on Sunday morning.

In a statement, Duke Energy Florida said it believed its customers in central and eastern Florida may experience weather-related outages.

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Oil and natural gas

On the natural gas front, analysts have noted that by looking at the path and what previous storms have done, typically the ones that hit the eastern part of Florida just push down gas demand for a few days and then it rebounds relatively quickly. Storms hitting the Louisiana and Houston Ship Channel areas usually have a larger market impact.

The current expected path of the storm includes the Georgia coast, where Kinder Morgan's Elba Liquefaction – the smallest of the six major US LNG export facilities -- is located. The operator is monitoring the storm's development, but it is too early" to determine whether a reduction in staff or liquefaction activity at the site would be needed, spokeswoman Katherine Hill said July 31.

Oil and gas production isn't expected to be affected much because Isaias is projected to remain out of the Gulf of Mexico and instead move along eastern Florida and up the East Coast.

However, a series of southern Florida ports were closing to inbound traffic on July 31, potentially affecting shipments of refined petroleum products.

The ports of Miami, Everglades, Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce, Key West, as well as the Miami River and the Florida Keys all moved to Yankee condition status on July 31, meaning that inbound traffic is closed without explicit permission from the port captains, and movements are restricted within the ports.

Other Florida ports remained open to traffic – at X-Ray status – with some elevated restrictions to ship movements within the ports. The Port of Jacksonville, including Port Canaveral and the Port of Fernandina, said it is scheduled to move to X-Ray status on the evening of July 31.

Florida relies on waterborne refined products supplies, as it has no refineries and is not served by major pipelines. Refined products are delivered primarily to marine terminals at the Port of Jacksonville and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on the east coast, and the Port of Tampa on the west coast.

Kinder Morgan's Central Florida Pipeline delivers refined products from the Tampa terminal to Orlando.

"We are monitoring the storm's path and activating our emergency response plans, as needed," said Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz on July 31.

Previous hurricanes

With Isaias forecast Friday to maintain hurricane status as it skirts the coasts of the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina through August 3, a comparison of the power grid impact from the more inland Hurricane Michael of October 2018 may be appropriate.

Michael cut power to about 2.7 million people and cut loads by 10% to 36%, or 4.1 GW to 13.5 GW, depending on the region.

Day-ahead on-peak bilateral indexes reflected the drop in demand. Michael landed in Florida on Oct. 10, 2018, and ripped through Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas before moving offshore the night of Oct. 11-12.

The Into Southern day-ahead on-peak index dropped from $54/MWh on Oct. 9, 2018, to $35.25/MWh on Oct.10, $34.50/MWh on Oct. 11, and $30/MWh on Oct. 12 before starting a slow rebound of $30.50/MWh on Oct. 15 and $36.50/MWh on Oct. 16.

Currently, Into Southern day-ahead on-peak indexes are already suppressed by a combination of reduced economic activity related to the novel coronavirus pandemic and mild weather, averaging about $25.70/MWh this July and settling around $22.50/MWh for delivery July 31.