Hurricanes frequently cause damage to electric power systems in the United States, leading to widespread and prolonged loss of electric service. Restoring service quickly requires the use of repair crews and materials that must be requested, at considerable cost, prior to the storm. U.S. utilities have struggled to strike a good balance between over- and underpreparation largely because of a lack of methods for rigorously estimating the impacts of an approaching hurricane on their systems. Previous work developed methods for estimating the risk of power outages and customer loss of power, with an outage defined as nontransitory activation of a protective device. In this article, we move beyond these previous approaches to directly estimate damage to the electric power system. Our approach is based on damage data from past storms together with regression and data mining techniques to estimate the number of utility poles that will need to be replaced. Because restoration times and resource needs are more closely tied to the number of poles and transformers that need to be replaced than to the number of outages, this pole-based assessment provides a much stronger basis for prestorm planning by utilities. Our results show that damage to poles during hurricanes can be assessed accurately, provided that adequate past damage data are available. However, the availability of data can, and currently often is, the limiting factor in developing these types of models in practice. Opportunities for further enhancing the damage data recorded during hurricanes are also discussed.
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