As a rental power manager for Cat® dealer Gregory Poole in North Carolina, Scott Lundy has been through hurricanes before.
In the case of hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, it involved an intensive three or four day event for Lundy that consisted of renting out the dealer’s entire inventory, as well as arranging shipment of mobile generator sets to eastern Carolina from other Cat dealers.
But in the case of Hurricane Matthew, which hit the eastern half of North Carolina Oct. 7-10 with torrential rain and high winds, Lundy was constantly on the phone for over two weeks, providing more than 200 MW of rental power. The after effects of the storm caused widespread flooding, and forced the closure of 660 roads throughout the state.
“All of the low-lying areas filled up with water,” Lundy said. “In the Fayetteville-Lumberton and Kinston areas, the ground was already saturated and the reservoirs were full, so when this storm hit, that’s what really took it over the edge, the water had nowhere to go.”
Ten days after the storm, many areas remained without power. Those requesting rental power included small farmers all the way up to large corporations that needed power equipment to keep their operations running.
“We had cold storage facilities that need to keep the food at the right temperature so they could deliver it to the grocery stores, but it was really across the board,” Lundy said. “We were busy for almost a month dealing with these customers, and a lot of the equipment stayed out that long and kept running.”
The City of Kinston found itself without emergency power when its standby generator failed just before the storm hit. Because the city serves as the emergency call center for residents, it was critical to maintain power to the phones, as well as the data center, said Kenneth “Earl” Gooding, senior substation and control technician for the Kinston Public Services department.
“So we called Gregory Poole right away, because they’re always on standby for us if we ever need service or power needs,” Gooding said. “They acted quickly and supplied us with a temporary standby generator, and the service was wonderful.”
As it turned out, Matthew caused a lot of damage, knocking power out in several different parts of Kinston. Five days later, the Neuse River overflowed it banks and the floodwaters came, cutting off the city from the rest of the county—flooding an estimated 800 homes near the river along with 170 businesses, and bringing the town to a virtual standstill.
“WE DON’T EVEN HAVE TO NECESSARILY REACH OUT TO THE OTHER DEALERS—WHEN THEY SEE SOMETHING LIKE THIS COMING THEY REACH OUT TO US. THEY START SENDING US THEIR LIST OF AVAILABLE EQUIPMENT.”
An emergency shelter set up at nearby Lenoir Community College hosted more than 300 people during and after the hurricane. Prior to the onset of Hurricane Matthew, county emergency officials realized that the standby generator at the college was out of commission. The Lenoir County Fire Marshall contacted Gregory Poole, which located an XQ2000 generator set from Blanchard Power Systems in South Carolina and had it delivered within 48 hours.
“We could not have asked for a quicker response,” said Roger Dail, emergency services director for Lenoir County. “It was a big load off our mind, because when you put people in shelters they come with all types of needs. Some of them might have oxygen concentrators that they need to have plugged in all the time. So having power is a life-sustaining thing that we need to have, especially at our main emergency shelter.”
Across the country, Cat dealers can access more generators from their rental power fleet, Lundy says, adding that all generator sets are maintained and ready to run.
“I can count on the fact that it will be ready to go, it’s reliable,” Lundy said. “With the number of equipment generators that we have out in an event like this, servicing them all could be a problem. So for the generators to be run ready upon delivery is extremely important.”
The manner in which the Cat Rental Power network mobilizes in a hurricane or other emergency event is also impressive, Lundy says.
“We don’t even have to necessarily reach out to the other dealers—when they see something like this coming they reach out to us. They start sending us their list of available equipment. They set up the trucking for us. They include the cable, and we don’t have to touch a lot of the equipment. We send it directly from those dealers right to the customers and it happens overnight.”
Following the storm, the City of Kinston operations center ran on standby generator power for at least 24 hours straight until power could be restored.
“In our type of business, having dependable backup power is very important—we have to have power readily available so we can maintain the computers and the phone systems and direct our employees where to go to help the citizens out and with their needs,” Gooding said.
“And having someone that can both provide and service that equipment when needed can be a lifesaver,” he adds. “I’m thankful to Gregory Poole for being there for us, especially at such a critical time.”