Business continuity, Content

Hurricane Michael Power Outages: Electric Service Restored to More Than 1.2 Million Customers


Hurricane Michael knocked out electric power to roughly 1.5 million residents and businesses as of October 12, but electric crews have worked overtime to restore power to more than 1.2 million of those customers as of 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, October 14, according to Data Fusion Solutions.

The state-by-state electric grid outage count so far, according to Data Fusion's tracking service, now stands at:

  • Florida: 136,235 (down from 275,283 on October 12)
  • Virginia: 46,585 (down from 554,995)
  • North Carolina: 41,485 (down from 493,400)
  • Georgia: 37,062 (down from 145,361)
  • Alabama: 5,000 (down from 30,597)
  • Plus additional scattered outages in neighboring states.

When you factor in the number of people who have had power restored, the total outage count from Hurricane Michael was within the neighborhood of 2 million power outages -- the very figure that the University of Michigan forecast ahead of the storm.

Hurricane Michael Damage Totals

Technology companies and MSPs activated various business continuity and disaster recovery plans ahead of the storm's arrival on Wednesday, October 10.  For instance, AppRiver activated its Digital Disaster Preparedness Service (DDPS) and Datto deployed its Disaster Response Team (DRT) to Atlanta.

The region now faces a major recovery effort. According to reports from USA TodayNBC, CNN and Bloomberg Radio:

  • There are 18 confirmed deaths from the storm.
  • Mexico Beach, Florida -- a beachfront city -- has been leveled. Aerial views show entire neighborhoods wiped out.
  • Thousands of homes and businesses were blown apart as the storm slammed across the Florida Panhandle and roared, still with hurricane force, into Georgia.
  • An 80-mile stretch of debris-strewn Interstate 10 west of Tallahassee was shut down.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is already warning that some residents and businesses could be without power for weeks.

MSPs In the Storm's Path

Hurricane Michael is the strongest storm that the region has seen in more than a century. But many MSPs in the region have extensive experience standing tall during hurricane season.

On Call Computer Solutions President Mike Frieder
On Call Computer Solutions President Mike Frieder

For instance, On Call Computer Solutions LLC of Tallahassee, Florida, typically experiences two to three storm preparations per year. The company, founded in 2003, generally starts storm preparations roughly 48 to 72 hours ahead of a storm system's forecasted arrival. The effort begins with notifications to customers on what to expect -- and any recommended server, computer, and network infrastructure shutdowns based on the severity of the storm, according to On Call President Michael A. Frieder.

"Our backup and disaster recovery team checks and verifies all backups daily as a part of normal operations with alternating teams of backup operators to ensure multiple eyes are on backups at all times," Frieder says. "There are actually no functional changes to our backup and disaster recovery operations during a storm because we operate every day anticipating anything could happen at any moment."

As the storm approaches, On Call focuses on its staff -- double-checking to ensure team members have safe destinations and ample time to personally prepared for the storm.

"We utilize slack for in-office messaging and send out weather reports every 2-4 hours in the general channel along with any other information including morning check-ins on the day of the storm or day after," Frieder says. "Our team becomes quite chatty during the storm and it helps everyone to stay in good spirits and know that everyone is safe or notice if someone has gone off the grid."

VoIP and Cloud Services

On the technology front, the company leverages a FreedomVoice VoIP phone/cloud PBX system. The day before the storm, team members unplug a company-issued phone at the office and bring it home for use there.

"There are no differences in extensions; our dispatch team can still see who is and is not on the phone just like in the office," he says. As a result, customers typically don't even realize when an On Call employee is working from home. If the Internet fails, a Freedom Phone app allows employees to make calls from "office lines" on their cell phones. 

Decentralized Approach

On Call also has offices in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. The decentralized approach allows the company to actively support all customers throughout a storm.

"This is a major advantage when compared to any of our other local competitors in the area," he adds. "We move project work around the calendar as much as possible to provide extra team members to both remote support boards and disaster recovery boards so during storms like this we actually have an equal or greater number of people on our team prepared to deliver service."

The company also has a "no infrastructure-in-the-office" policy. All critical operations are cloud-based and in data centers. The company recommends the same policy for its customers. Without such a policy, "even a simple office move can become a nightmare when your phone lines and server are tied to a physical address or IP with a local carrier," he adds.

We'll check in with Frieder and other MSPs in the area once Hurricane Michael has has moved out of the area. Special thanks to Ulistic for ongoing introductions to MSPs across the storm path.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.