Cummins helping areas hit by storm: Company providing backup power in hurricane path

For The Tribune

Cummins Inc. spent more than a week helping ensure that customers in the Carolinas had backup power when Hurricane Florence hit.

The company expects to be assisting in the hardest-hit areas for several weeks, a top company executive said.

Norbert Nusterer, president of Cummins’ Power Systems business segment, said the Columbus-based global power company spent seven to 10 days before Florence hit North Carolina and South Carolina making sure the existing Cummins generators of customers were in good working order.

Those generally are large generators, ranging in power from 150 kilowatts to 1 or more megawatts — types used by hospitals, airports, pumping stations, wastewater treatment plants and nursing homes, Nusterer said.

Cummins also provides smaller generators, about 15 to 20 kilowatts, that are used more for single-family homes and generators for mobile equipment, such as ambulances, rescue equipment and bucket trucks.

“We’re trying to keep all things running,” Nusterer said.

Cummins moved more generators into the region to have them ready to provide power in the storm’s aftermath, he said.

“The big question when the utilities come in is, ‘How long before we’re up and running?’” Nusterer said.

Cummins most likely will be busiest with work on existing generators and selling new generators in the hardest-hit areas, such as the North Carolina communities of Wilmington and Fayetteville, Nusterer said.

Some of the work in the aftermath won’t be considered catastrophe relief, Nusterer said. For example, the installation of generators systems into infrastructure will ensure customers don’t lose power in the future. That work could take two to six months, he said.

Cummins has a physical presence in the Carolinas. It has a plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, that is a sister plant to the Cummins Midrange Engine Plant at Walesboro and employs more than 1,000. It also has a turbo technology plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

Nusterer said both plants escaped damage and their employees are fine. However, five branches of the Cummins’ Distribution segment are located in the area, and two had not reopened as of Monday morning, he said.

About 150 employees from its Carolinas operations have been providing help, and a pool of more than 250 technicians — some from other states — are on standby for assistance, Nusterer said.

In some cases, Cummins has been able to use remote monitoring of systems to learn if customers’ generators are having problems. Mostly, though, contact has been by phone calls, Nusterer said.