CenterPoint Energy



Hurricane Ike
Like many things, bigger in Texas
Complete information on CenterPoint Energy's response to Hurricane Ike.

Jan. 8, 2009 - When Hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast of Texas on Sept. 13, 2008, its 110-mile-per-hour hurricane-force winds mowed down 50-foot-tall trees and flooded coastal areas. CenterPoint Energy’s (CNP) electric delivery system took a direct hit from Ike, resulting in the largest power outage in Texas history. More than 95 percent of CNP’s electric delivery customers lost power: 2.15 million at the storm’s peak.

The impact on Houston – the fourth-largest city in the nation, home to N.A.S.A. and the Texas Medical Center, the “energy capital of the world” – was huge. Damage has been estimated at $54 billion*, which would make Ike one of the costliest U.S. storms ever. *(Source: Houston Chronicle)

Most damage affected distribution lines. Our transmission and substation structures held up remarkably well, with minor damages repaired quickly. Only 60 (less than 1 percent) of our wooden transmission poles were damaged. Ninety-six percent of our transmission lines were back in service within four days, all of them within a week, with the later restorations concentrated on Galveston Island, which was impacted by both hurricane-force winds and a 12-foot storm surge that flooded four of our substations.

Storm damage to our distribution system was more extensive. Surveying our 5,000 square-mile service territory by air and foot, we discovered 332,045 feet of cable down and 86 percent of almost 1,500 circuits out. We replaced about 6,400 wooden distribution poles, less than 1 percent of about 1 million such poles in our system. The small number of poles that required replacement is a testament to the solid performance of our system even in the face of a storm of such magnitude.

We call Hurricane Ike a category “tree” storm because trees caused the majority of the damage. While our ongoing tree trimming program helps prevent limbs from growing into power lines in our easements, it could not keep whole trees from falling into power lines during Ike. A comparison of more and less heavily wooded areas shows the challenge presented by Ike. Our Barker Substation serves 34,554 customers in a compact area with relatively few trees. Fewer than 20 poles were down, most of them street accessible, and a single crew of 40 workers was able to complete major restoration work in one day. By contrast, our Tomball Substation serves half as many customers in a large area with many tall pine trees outside our easements. With hundreds of poles down, 10 crews with a total of 450 workers took seven days to finish major repairs.

Coordinating 14,000 field and support workers at over two dozen sites presented logistical challenges as well. The company used 1.4 million gallons of fuel for 7,000 vehicles and 859,543 meals to fuel 16-hour days followed by 94,155 hotel room nights for those not sleeping on one of 4,000 cots assembled at the same convention center which hosted refugees from Hurricane Katrina three years before.

With its 300-mile-wide wind field, Hurricane Ike dwarfed its predecessors Rita and Alicia in size and customer power outages. Ike caused 2.15 million customers to lose power compared to the outages that Rita and Alicia caused: 719,000 and 750,000 customers respectively. Nonetheless, CNP and our mutual assistance partners were able to restore power to three times as many customers after Hurricane Ike in 18 days, only two more days than it took to complete restorations after our last direct hit by Hurricane Alicia 25 years ago.

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