Above photo: Wilmington, N.C. waterfront Sept. 19, 2018
More than a week ago, Hurricane Florence made landfall, bringing strong winds and historic amounts of rainfall to North and South Carolina. And Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Southport, N.C. sat squarely in the path of the storm. Through preparation and teamwork, our nuclear workers overcame every obstacle Florence brought their way.
Knowing a hurricane is headed your way would make most people nervous, but extreme weather is something all nuclear plants prepare for. Following our procedures, operators systematically shut down both of Brunswick’s units prior to the storm making landfall.
Plant workers ensured equipment was secured, necessities were stocked and employees not directly involved in operating the plant at Brunswick were released.
Karen Williams was one of the employees who left before the storm hit. “Like many others, I packed up my few treasures and my dog, and evacuated my home in Southport to a friend’s,” said Williams.
Our nuclear workers were ready and their preparation paid off. The plant site never flooded as a result of the storm and Brunswick’s two units remained safely shutdown through adverse conditions. But more than 25 inches of rainfall delivered by Florence caused nearby roads to flood, making access to the plant difficult.
Florence left Southport streets with “downed tree limbs everywhere” and Wilmington streets with “mangled messes of trees wrapped in power lines, sometimes several blocks in a row,” Williams said. In the small community of Boiling Spring Lakes “the flooding has stranded people in their homes and made restoration of basic services extremely challenging.”
With about 300 workers remaining on-site during the hurricane, preparations were quickly made to ensure all workers had the resources they needed to eat, sleep and continue to maintain plant equipment, even after the storm had passed.
Teammates worked shoulder to shoulder unloading additional supplies of food and water brought in by helicopter. Others stepped up to become chefs and prepare food for their co-workers. Teams identified safe, alternative routes to access the site. Transportation by boat was even arranged so that new workers could take over while their teammates returned home and reconnected with loved ones.
The Southport community also rallied around our Brunswick teammates. After speaking with Duke Energy, the assistant manager of a local Walmart and her husband left their home to meet Brunswick Nuclear teammates at the store. Although the store was without power and much of the area was flooded, Walmart was able to provide provisions to our workers at the plant. “Each day it all gets a little better,” said Williams.
Brunswick was not the only plant whose community was impacted by Florence. Much of the community around Robinson Nuclear Plant in Hartsville, S.C. also suffered significant flooding, downed trees and property damage. Like the rest of our nuclear fleet, Robinson implemented procedures to prepare for the storm although powering down the reactor was not necessary.
Our nuclear plants coped with the severe weather conditions as expected, thanks to a dedicated team of highly-trained professionals. We know though, that many communities in the Carolinas are still recovering from this historic weather event and our thoughts are with those impacted by the storm.
Duke Energy employees from across the company have rallied around employees and community members affected by the hurricane. The company has delivered supplies – everything from flashlights to children’s coloring books – to Brunswick Nuclear Plant for employees and their families as they begin to recover from the storm. The Duke Energy Foundation is also matching employee contributions to eligible organizations such as the American Red Cross.
You can learn more about the recovery efforts in the Carolinas by following Duke Energy corporate communications teammates, who are providing an inside look at on-going restoration efforts in some of our hardest-hit areas.