Alexis Kwasinski and Wayne Weaver with Adviser Philip T. Krein

Figure 27: The site survey area. The red circle indicates where Katrina made landfall.

Figure 27: The site survey area. The red circle indicates where Katrina made landfall.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi and Louisiana coast with catastrophic consequences. Since then, news media have reported hurricane effects, including damage to the power grid and telecommunication network outages. Hurricane Katrina’s impact on power and communication networks and the consequences of extended outages in the aftermath illustrate the importance of obtaining lessons to improve future disaster response.

There has been little research on disaster damage and restoration of telecommunications systems or how communication system reliability in extreme conditions is related to power supply and which is the main failure cause when a network loss of service occurs. This report, based on a site survey conducted by Alexis Kwasinski and Wayne Weaver between October 17th and October 23rd in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina, examines telecom power system behavior. The yellow section of Figure 27 shows the site survey area; the red circle shows where Katrina made landfall.

This study revealed that the main outage reason was lack of power due to fuel supply disruptions, flooding, and security issues. Telecommunication company employees prevented more extensive outages by quickly adapting to the new conditions and implementing alternative on-the-spot solutions. The report also presents means used to restore telecommunications services and proposed ways to improve logistics, such as coordinating genset deployment among different network operators and reducing genset fuel consumption by installing permanent photovoltaic systems or other distributed generation resources at sites where long electric outages are expected. The use of natural gas gensets is proposed to alleviate diesel fuel demand.

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation.