A new report reveals that 83% of major power outages between 2000 and 2021 have been attributed to extreme weather conditions. The analysis written by central climate finds that Florida had the tenth highest number of outages in the country.
The analysis uses data collected from utility companies across the country and defines a major power outage as one affecting more than 50,000 customers. The criteria for a weather event vary from place to place. Climate Central finds that 58% of weather-related outages were caused by extreme weather conditions, such as high winds, rain and thunderstorms. Another 22% is attributed to winter weather, 15% to hurricanes and tropical storms and a smaller number of outages could be attributed to extreme heat and wildfires.
Data obtained from Climate Central reveals more details about the impacts on South Carolina. The state experienced 54 major outages during this period. 2020 saw the most outages, with eight major outages listed. Reasons noted include hurricanes, winter weather, and severe weather. Most of the outages affected South Carolina as well as neighboring North Carolina.
At the national level, the data shows 64% more major outages during the period 2011-2021 than that of 2000-2010. Aging infrastructure with surface lines susceptible to increasingly severe weather conditions due to climate change are cited as reasons for the change. Certain events, such as the recent heat waves in the West, increase the demand for electricity, which threatens to strain the system.
There are multiple risks to public health and safety as a result of power outages. A lack of indoor air conditioning can be dangerous if accompanied by extreme heat or cold. Extended outages without refrigeration can threaten people’s food supply. Those dependent on electricity for medical devices may be particularly vulnerable. Large-scale outages can also affect other public services, such as limiting public access to drinking water if they have not stored any themselves.
Families can choose to prepare for outages by purchasing generators, but may be at risk if they don’t use it properly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 85 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators should never be used indoors or in an enclosed space, such as a garage. Open windows or doors may not be enough to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, so generators should always be used outdoors, away from doors, windows, and vents.