As the start of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season looms on the horizon, the V.I. Water and Power Authority said Friday it is fine tuning its disaster preparedness plan in the event the territory is hit by another severe storm this year.
“We assembled our management team this week to continue our review of where we are, what changes have been made to the plan since last year’s storms, and what measures can be taken to protect the authority’s assets in this hurricane season,” said Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer in a news release issued Saturday.
Kupfer noted that several such meetings have been held with the authority’s staff since the major portion of electrical restoration was completed at the end of last year.
Kupfer said WAPA has completed its restoration of service and is continuing permanent work on the electric grid. In addition, improvements are being made at both power plants, and on the distribution systems, he said.
“While WAPA has received funding for a number of mitigation projects, we are mindful that not many will be fully implemented by this year’s hurricane season,” he said.
The composite-pole installation project is well on its way on St. John, Kupfer said, and is getting started on St. Croix. Contractors will be mobilized shortly on St. Thomas, he added. New generators planned for both power plants are making their way to the territory, and WAPA is fast-tracking acquisition, permitting and installation of stand-alone generators for St. John.
“By the peak of the hurricane season, our goal is to have our plants and distribution systems in a better place with some levels of resiliency built in,” he said.
The executive director also said WAPA has an agreement with the American Public Power Association so that crews from municipal utilities can begin mobilizing men, women, and equipment should a storm be predicted to impact the territory.
“In the event of an impact, they would be immediately dispatched to the territory,” Kupfer said.
WAPA is proceeding with requests for proposals for private companies interested in working with WAPA to restore service in a post-storm scenario and ensuring vendors are in place to provide materials and supplies, he added.
“Our team is also working on identifying a hardened storage location to safeguard the many transformers, rolls of cable and primary wire, poles, hardware and other equipment that are presently on-island, and would be needed in the aftermath of a storm,” Kupfer said.
The authority has also sought the assistance of Witt O’Brien, LLP, to fine tune WAPA’s hurricane preparedness plan.
“For the next two weeks, our directors will be sitting with consultants from Witt O’Brien to hammer out their division-specific hurricane response plans and fine tune the overall framework for the authority’s response to any disaster which may threaten or impact the territory,” he said.
Kupfer said WAPA will continue to update the public on its hurricane preparedness planning, and urged residents to plan ahead.
“This is also an ideal time for me to remind our residents to sign up today for WAPA Alerts, the authority’s new mass messaging system,” he said.
Through WAPA Alerts, the authority notifies the public of service interruptions, road closures caused by ongoing projects and other pertinent information.
“In the hurricane season, WAPA Alerts will be a primary messaging vehicle for updates about the utility’s storm preparations, as well any post-storm restoration that may be required,” Kupfer said.