When It Rains, It Pours: Hardening the Grid for Floods

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The floods of today are not the floods of yesterday. Even U.S. states that historically experience droughts are at higher risk of flooding than they’ve ever been. For example, the flooding in California this year has caused widespread devastation, and nearly every county in the state has been declared a flood disaster area multiple times. With the rainy season upon us, I can’t help but reflect on how major downpours and flooding impact our utility customers today and the necessary resilience of the future grid.

Changing weather patterns are making rainy seasons more intense, and they are expected to increase in the coming decades. This heavy rainfall is leading to a record number of flood plains, which are predicted to grow by approximately 45 percent by the end of the century. With the frequency, scope, and threat of floods growing every year, the once widely accepted idea of the 100-year flood is now a myth.

At the same time, more people are living in flood plains. This means the impacts of flooding are widespread, creating huge risks for many communities and the economy. On average, the cost of damage from one flood is a massive $4.8 billion.

As our utility customers make grid investments, they are taking into consideration how severe weather impacts the growing number of their customers who live and work in these areas, not in just this year’s rainy season but well into the future. To mitigate these challenges, many utilities are undergrounding more lines and bolstering existing underground lines in areas with growing floods.

But while undergrounding lines minimizes hazards from storms, hardening programs must account for the level of flooding this infrastructure faces. The threat of flooding varies by location, such as in urban areas where distribution equipment may be in subbasements. Where flooding is frequent, hardening switchgear is critical.

Our Vista® Underground Distribution Switchgear gives utilities a robust switching and protection solution that can survive and even continue carrying load to customers during a flood. As more utilities consider how to ride out the next big flood in their service territory, investing in resiliently designed switchgear can make all the difference in keeping the power on or restoring it faster for customers in the wake of storm damage.

As we anticipate more frequent and severe storms that drive an increase in flooding, it’s paramount to make investments to help the most vulnerable parts of the grid power through the floods of tomorrow. Robust, submersible switchgear gives utilities a longstanding solution to prepare the grid for a future with extreme rain events, regardless how hard it pours.


Kristin McInnis

Publication Date

April 5, 2023