Mitigating for Mass Power Outages

Episode #8

In recent weeks, several major disasters have crippled the power grid infrastructure in several states. Tropical Storm Isaias, the Iowa derecho, and Hurricane Laura demonstrate how disasters can severely impact power systems and prolong the recovery period. In this episode of Disaster Recovery Roundtable, we’ll visit Des Moines where a cluster of severe storms devastated Iowa and several neighboring states with hurricane force winds. Our guests include the Des Moines office of the National Weather Service and Iowa’s State Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. We’ll also hear from Georgia Power, and Tidal Basin’s Vice President of Preparedness, Resilience, and Emergency Management on preparing and mitigating for mass power outages.

It’s hard, from a forecast perspective, to forecast a derecho too far in advance. The National Weather Service in Des Moines is recommending more communication through mobile devices for systems like a derecho to help warn the public. The Iowa severe storm event was one of the longest power outage events in Iowa history according to Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joyce Flinn. Her office is reviewing how they can prepare the public for an extended power outage which can be a strain to many families. From an emergency management perspective, she recommends extending how long the public should be prepared to survive a power outage disaster, beyond three days.

Key Takeaways

  • [02:45] Let's talk about derecho, how they form, how are they classified?
  • [04:10] How often does the state of Iowa experience a derecho?
  • [05:00] Was this particular event forecasted? Did you know it was going to be this bad?
  • [06:50] I heard there was only one fatality? Is that correct? Isn’t that amazing?
  • [07:50] We’ve so much power outages in the State of Iowa, this may go down as a record, What kind of winds are we talking about we start to see that type of impact on the grid system?
  • [10:08] Looking down the road, do you see any possible changes from the Weather Service on how they warn against events like this?
  • [12:45] How does the derecho compare to other disasters that you have experienced in the past in Iowa?
  • [13:20] Why did it take so long to get the power back on? Was it just the size of this disaster?
  • [14:00] Iowans know how to prepare for a disaster, how do they prepare for a disaster of this magnitude?
  • [14:40] While people are still recovering from the pandemic, how did that impact how people responded to this disaster?
  • [15:20] What are some lessons learned for other state EMA directors?
  • [17:15] When we talk about power outages, what can individuals and businesses do to mitigate against power outages?
  • [19:00] What would you say the power companies should also do to prepare for outages?
  • [21:20] Sometimes the power outage planning piece gets overlooked when you are planning for a major disaster, especially related to a long-term outages.
  • [24:45] What type of power outage planning projects or related services have you provided to clients?
  • [27:30] We saw recently major outages caused by Hurricane Laura down on the Gulf, how does Georgia Power prepare for a disaster like that?
  • [28:40] Is weather your greatest threat for a mass power outage in Georgia?
  • [29:20] The private sector can be crippled from power outages, what resources do you share for your customers to prepare and mitigate for outages?
  • [30:55] Do you collaborate with the weather service and state emergency management agency?
  • [31:20] I understand Georgia Power has a storm center at headquarters, what role does that operation play in a major outage event?
  • [32:25] What are some tips for consumers when they are dealing with extended power outages?
  • [33:55] How does the mutual aid between power companies work?
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Joyce Flinn
Joyce Flinn
Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division Director
Iowa Homeland Security

Ms. Flinn began her career with emergency management in 1997 in the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program. She transferred to the Readiness and Response Bureau in March 2000. As a member of this bureau she served as program manager for statewide expansion of the NOAA Weather Radio system which was completed in 2006. She became bureau chief for Readiness and Response in August 2008. The bureau transitioned to the Operations Division in July 2013 when HSEMD became a stand-alone department.

While serving as the Operations Division administrator, Ms. Flinn coordinated many response activities during activation of the State Emergency Operations Center. She served as chief of operations when extensive flooding began on the Missouri River on May 25, 2011 and during an EF-5 tornado and subsequent historic flooding that impacted the majority of the state beginning May 25, 2008.

Other responsibilities she managed while administrator of the Operations Division include working with voluntary and faith-based partners, Citizen Corps, intrastate mutual aid, donations management, WebEOC, and operational readiness of the State Emergency Operations Center. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), communications, the Duty Officer program, the Radiological Emergency Preparedness program and the Radiological Maintenance Facility are other key programs and initiatives under the purview of that division.

For her work on the NOAA Weather Radio expansion, in 2001 the state received a national Mark Trail Award. In 2008 she received the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service for her work in responding to the significant disaster the state experienced.

NWS Fowle
Michael Fowle
Science and Operations Officer
National Weather Service

Mike Fowle is the Science & Operations Officer at NWS Des Moines, and has held this position since 2015. Previously he was a Science and Operations Officer with NWS Aberdeen for 7 years and has also worked as a meteorologist at NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan and NWS Phoenix. Mike received his B.S. in Meteorology at Saint Louis University and a M.S. in Atmospheric Science/Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Mike’s primary roles at the NWS include weather research and improvement projects along with staff training and development.  His research interests are varied and have included published research on high resolution convective allowing model (CAM) guidance, significant wind-driven hail events, and an analysis of the record Vivian, SD hailstone.  He has also led research projects on soil temperatures and snowfall accumulation, traffic accidents and the association with winter storms, and downslope winds with subtle topography.    

Allison Gregoire
Allison Gregoire
Media Relations
Georgia Power

Allison Gregoire is corporate communication professional and spokesperson for Georgia Power in Atlanta. In her role, she is responsible for working with media on behalf of the company statewide on a variety of topics including storm response, energy efficiency, electric transportation and the company’s filings with the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Stephanie Murphy v2
Stephanie Murphy, MS, CEM
Vice President of Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Management (PREM)

Ms. Stephanie Murphy, a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®), has over 18 years of experience in the areas of program development and project management in the Emergency Management and Transportation industries. She has been featured in Airport Business Magazine’s 2017 ‘40 Under 40’ and recognized as a ‘Major Player’ in the Spring 2017 edition of Emergency Management Magazine. Ms. Murphy was also the recipient of the IAEM-USA Career Excellence Award in 2016.

Ms. Murphy is the Vice President, Preparedness, Resiliency & Emergency Management for Tidal Basin Government Consulting. She leads a team of professionals in efforts to provide all-hazards, emergency management and preparedness services to Airports, Ports, Rail, Transit, Transportation, Oil, Hospitals, and Utilities.

As the first Emergency Management and Preparedness Manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in Washington, D.C., Stephanie developed a transportation emergency management and preparedness program from the ground up, focusing on strategic, incident and event planning; preparedness, response and recovery; corporate business continuity; training and exercising; and, identifying and implementing solutions for dynamic airport issues. She helped prepare two major U.S. Airports – Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National – to respond to, recover from, and mitigate all-hazard incidents and events.

Prior to her Airports Authority tenure, Ms. Murphy was the National Planning Section Chief with FEMA responding to Federally Declared disasters, as well as an International Crisis Management Trainer with the U.S. Department of State, venturing to over 30 countries, facilitating training and exercises for Embassy leadership. Ms. Murphy also spent several years at the local level responding to countless emergencies and events, serving in and Directing the EOC, and building resiliency in communities through planning, training, exercise and preparedness programs.

Ms. Murphy is certified by the DHS Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) and has designed, directed, and evaluated over 100+ domestic and international exercises ranging from terrorism, transportation and natural hazard incidents. As an instructor for over 15 years, Ms. Murphy has facilitated over 1000+ hours of training including ICS, NIMS, Incident Action Planning, crisis action planning development, and business and continuity of operations.

Stephanie is a recognized expert in her field and throughout her career has been presented with awards for Core Values of Collaboration, Quality of Service, Performance, Innovation, and Teamwork.


  • To learn more the August 10th derecho in Iowa, visit the Des Moines National Weather Service page at here.
  • To learn more about the Iowa Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management visit here.
  • To learn about Georgia Power and safety tips when outages occur, visit here.