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Title: Socioeconomic vulnerability and electric power restoration timelines in Florida: the case of Hurricane Irma

Large-scale damage to the power infrastructure from hurricanes and high-wind events can have devastating ripple effects on infrastructure, the broader economy, households, com- munities, and regions. Using Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida as a case study, we examined: (1) differences in electric power outages and restoration rates between urban and rural counties; (2) the duration of electric power outages in counties exposed to tropical storm force winds versus hurricane Category 1 force winds; and (3) the rela- tionship between the duration of power outage and socioeconomic vulnerability. We used power outage data for the period September 9, 2017–September 29, 2017. At the peak of the power outages following Hurricane Irma, over 36% of all accounts in Florida were without electricity. We found that the rural counties, predominantly served by rural electric cooperatives and municipally owned utilities, experienced longer power outages and much slower and uneven restoration times. Results of three spatial lag models show that large percentages of customers served by rural electric cooperatives and municipally owned utilities were a strong predictor of the duration of extended power outages. There was also a strong positive association across all three models between power outage duration and urban/rural county designation. Finally, there is positive spatial dependence between power outages and several social vulnerability indicators. Three socioeconomic variables more » found to be statistically significant highlight three different aspects of vulnerability to power outages: minority groups, population with sensory, physical and mental disability, and economic vulnerability expressed as unemployment rate. The findings from our study have broader planning and policy relevance beyond our case study area, and highlight the need for additional research to deepen our understanding of how power restoration after hurricanes contributes to and is impacted by the socioeconomic vulnerabilities of communities. « less
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Natural Hazards
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation