December 18, 2012

Reflecting on Sandy – Storm Center

Just over one month ago, the East was battling a beast of a storm, Sandy. According to a TIME article from November 26, Superstorm Sandy caused 8,100,000 homes over 17 states “as far west as Michigan” to lose power. Sandy had become the largest Atlantic hurricane on record when it made landfall in New Jersey on October 29, and the damage it caused will have an impact for months, if not years, to come.

Storm Center and Superstorm Sandy

As we reported in blog posts during the storm, a number of iFactor’s clients were directly affected by Superstorm Sandy, and our Storm Center implementations for those clients were put to the test. For a solid week, our clients worked overtime to tackle outages, and we worked with them to keep their customers updated. Our analytics show there were over 6.7 million Storm Center views in the area affected by Sandy from October 29 to November 3, with over 1.5 million views on October 29 and almost 1.6 million views on October 30 alone. It was great to see our products at work providing people with the real-time information they need in emergency situations like Sandy.

This Storm Center screen capture from October 31 shows the effects of Superstorm Sandy on the area around Boston.

A timely update

National Grid updated their outage map to iFactor’s Storm Center 3 (SC3) on October 22nd, one week before Sandy made landfall. Many features of the updated map positioned NGrid to better respond to their customer’s requests for information in the wake of the storm.

The update to SC3 introduced a mobile version of the NGrid outage map, changed the outage icons from light bulbs to the SC3 standard triangles, and added thematic icon clusters and crew hat icons to the map and crew status descriptions to mouse-over boxes. NGrid also moved their Storm Center site hosting to Amazon Web Services, which added scalability and redundancy, as the map is now powered by the same servers that drive Target’s and Amazon’s websites.

Thematic icon clusters help to organize National Grid’s outage map during Superstorm Sandy

In Sandy’s wake

Damaged areas didn’t get a break after Sandy, as a northeaster struck on November 7, bringing stiff winds and heavy, wet snow that “knocked out power to at least 375,000 homes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut,”according to the New York Times. Responding to the additional outages kept utilities busy, and customers in the area continued to consult Storm Center maps for updated outage information, although at a lower rate than during Sandy’s peak. There were about 578,000 total Storm Center views in the area from November 7 to November 9.

This Storm Center screen capture shows restoration progress in the Boston area as of November 8, when most of the outages from Superstorm Sandy and the Northeaster had been restored.

During Superstorm Sandy and the northeaster that followed, we saw Storm Center implementations across the Northeast region provide hundreds of thousands of people with clear, organized, and frequently updated information about outage conditions in their area. Communication is a key service when people are desperate and utilities are on the ground working to restore power. It’s hard to offer much comfort to someone who is without power, but with Storm Center, our clients are able to provide information that helps their customers plan around storm outages and understand utility companies’ efforts to restore power.