Burying power lines could help reduce the impact of hurricanes

Aug. 25, 2022

Coastal residents around the world not only face a greater risk of hurricanes as a consequence of climate change, but also the potential devastating effects of subsequent heat waves while grappling with power outages from hurricane damage. 

Historically, a heat wave following a hurricane has been rare, because the risk of extreme heat, for the eastern United States at least, usually passes before the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season in late summer. As global temperatures rise, however, heat waves are expected to occur more often and hurricanes are likely to become more common and more severe, increasing the odds of hurricane-blackout-heat wave events. In fact, the risk of experiencing the compound hazard of a hurricane-blackout-heat wave lasting more than five days in a 20-year span is expected to increase 23 times by the end of the century. 

Princeton Researchers have come up with a deceptively simple way to dramatically lesson this problem. Ning Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and her colleagues found that the number of affected residents could be halved by strategically burying just 5% of power lines -- specifically those near main distribution points. "By burying lines more strategically, we can be more efficient and more effective at reducing the risk," Lin said. 

The researchers' findings were recently published in a study for the July 30 Nature Communications. 

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