The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season is the first on record in which 13 tropical storms have formed before September. As of the writing of this report, a total of 17 named storms, five hurricanes, and one major hurricane have developed during this season. This season is also the first to see seven named tropical cyclones make landfall in the continental U.S. before the end of August.
Hurricane Laura was a deadly and damaging Category 4 hurricane that tied with the 1856 Last Island hurricane as the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the state of Louisiana, with sustained winds of 150 MPH. The twelfth named storm, fourth hurricane, and the first major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Laura originated from a massive tropical wave that moved off the West African coast on August 16, intensifying into a tropical storm on August 20. Early on August 27, Laura made landfall near peak intensity over Cameron, Louisiana, becoming the tenth-strongest U.S. hurricane landfall on record.
Approximately 1.2-million customers lost power during the storm, with 615,000 power outages in Louisiana alone. Several coastal and barrier island communities experienced damaging storm surges more than 10-feet above sea level, and many low-lying inland communities were impacted by flash flooding due to torrential rains. Early damage assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicate that insured and uninsured losses will exceed $10 billion.
The NEMA Natural Disaster Team—consisting of staff from the Field Representative Program, Communications, and Brand Management, and Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi)—activated our Natural Disaster Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to coordinate NEMA activities. We gave electrical professionals, emergency management officials, and community decision-makers the most current guidance and other resources on policies and best practices for the selection and installation of electrical products that are resilient to natural disasters. We also offered advice on how to restore electrical systems after a natural disaster has passed.
NEMA staff utilized digital technology to maximize our outreach efforts by posting guidance and links to the NEMA Storm Reconstruction Toolkit and the ESFi Disaster Safety webpage on our social media accounts and in email blasts out to industry contacts in the impacted states. Special attention was paid to safe generator use as we learned that 15 deaths were reported as a result of carbon monoxide CO poisoning due to unsafe portable generator use. We also placed strong emphasis on avoiding downed power lines and making sure electrical equipment impacted by rain or flood waters are properly evaluated for damage prior to reenergizing, using the NEMA GD 1-2019 Guide. Six NEMA Member companies with facilities in the impacted regions of Louisiana and Texas were contacted to offer guidance, intelligence from the field, and any other resources necessary to be of assistance to the staff and operations at those facilities.
With more than 80 days remaining in the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season ending on November 30, NEMA remains vigilant and ready to respond to any future landfalling storms.