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Hurricane Zeta Issues a Strike 2 in the Southeast; Fuel Cells Again Called into Service

It has been quite the hurricane season – in a year that has been epic in so many ways. NOAA’s final season tally indicates a record-breaking 30 named storms, 13 of which became hurricanes, with 6 major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and twelve storms reached land in the continental U.S. during that time.

hurricane paths 2020

Source: hurricane tracker showing the paths of hurricanes Sally and Zeta

As the southeast was still cleaning up after September’s hurricane Sally, on came October’s hurricane Zeta, the fifth named storm to strike Louisiana in 2020. Just one mile per hour shy of a Category 3 storm when it made landfall, it then continued on to ravage Mississippi and Alabama. Snapping trees and powerlines with straight line winds, Zeta left more than 2.1 million people without power as well as equipment responsible for consumer and first responder communications all the way from New Orleans to Atlanta.

Plug Power fuel cell backup power data

For the second time in less than six weeks, linemen, tower crews, cell techs, tree crews and so many others worked around the clock to restore power. As they worked post-hurricane, Plug Power’s GenSure fuel cells continued to provide backup power to ensure communications were viable to get the job done – and check in with loved ones. 142 fuel cells operated, providing backup power for a total of 5,212 hours. The longest runtime was nearly 211 hours, with the average being 36.75 hours. For the 2020 hurricane season, Plug Power fuel cells provided nearly 6,800 hours of emergency power to a region hit hard.

If there is any good news from this epic hurricane season, it is this: according to acting NOAA administrator, Neil Jacobs, Ph.D, “Our investments in research, forecast models, and computer technology allowed forecasters at the National Weather Service, and its National Hurricane Center, to issue forecasts with increasing accuracy, resulting in the advanced lead time needed to ensure that decision makers and communities were ready and responsive.” With global warming in play, storms will likely continue to be supercharged. Advanced planning is everything.

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