The Worst Blackouts in the History of Houston

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Posted by JR Olson | Posted in History | Posted on 30-09-2014

Tropical storm and hurricane season for the Eastern Pacific region typically begins May 15th and runs through November 30th. During the 2013 Eastern Pacific Basin hurricane season alone, there were 18 named storms, including eight that later became hurricanes. The difference between tropical storms and hurricanes (including major hurricanes) has to do with the wind speed of the storm, with hurricane wind speeds measuring at 80 miles per hour or higher. The most recent major hurricane to hit the Eastern Pacific basin was Hurricane Raymond on October 19-23, 2013. The storm, whose largest impact was on Acapulco, Mexico, reached a maximum wind speed of 125 miles per hour.

Houston, Texas is affected by many of the tropical storms and hurricanes that originate in the Eastern Pacific basin. The powerful winds caused by such storms result in power outages and have caused some of the worst blackouts in Houston’s history.

•           Hurricane Alicia (August 15-21, 1983)  Hurricane Alicia struck the Eastern Pacific basin on August 15, 1983 and made it inland through Texas on August 18th as a Category 3 hurricane. At one point, as the storm rode through Houston, winds of 94 miles per hour and wind gusts of 107 miles per hour were recorded at Houston Hobby Airport. The storm and its resulting winds caused nearly $3 billion in damages, sweeping across a path just Northwest of US-45 in Houston. The Houston Chronicle reported five deaths were attributed to the storm, and power outages lasted up to a week for some residents.

•           Hurricane Ike (September 1-14, 2008)  Hurricane Ike arrived at the Texas mainland through Galveston Bay on September 13, 2008. Reaching a maximum speed of 116 miles per hour, the storm wreaked between $30 and $50 billion in damage and ranks as the third costliest storm in the United States (behind Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy). The storm caused the longest sustained power outage in Houston’s history, with more than 2 million power grid users affected by the hurricane. Residents experienced power outages for a period of four days to one week, as Houston area power companies worked to restore electricity. The experience of Houston residents affected by the storm related blackout was similar to the November 1965 Northeast Blackout.

•           Tropical Storm Allison (June 4-18, 2001)  Houston was most affected by the damage caused by Tropical Storm Allison, the deadliest and costliest tropical storm in United States history. The storm, which impacted Houston June 7-9, caused $5 billion in damages; of the $5 billion damage estimate amount as reported by FEMA, $4.8 billion in damages was sustained by Houston, which included: $2.04 billion in damages to public facilities, $1.76 to residential property and $1.08 billion in damages to commercial properties. The storm produced a rainfall of over 35 inches that fell for a period of six days, including a peak rainfall of 36.99 inches at the Port of Houston. The flooding and other storm related damages caused the disruption of medical services for several days due to large-scale power outages.

Byline

Gary Belmont is a freelance writer based in Seattle, WA. Though it has had its fair share of electricity troubles, there are still electric companies in Houston which offer affordable and reliable electricity service, such as Tara Energy.

Cities with the Highest Electricity Rates

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Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Business, Other - Environment | Posted on 29-09-2014

Electricity plays a big part in our daily lives. You use it every day yet you probably don’t really know where it comes from or how it gets there — you may just pay your monthly energy bill and not even question it. You may think your town is on par with others across the country. But as it turns out, some cities pay a higher electricity rate than others. Why? There are many determining factors, such as proximity to other sources of fuel, geographic location, size of the city, and usage demand.

Who Has the Highest Bills?

Though it may offer gorgeous beaches, the state of Hawaii charges relatively high rates. This state clocked in at 37.27 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers in October 2013, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. The commercial rate was 34.31 cents per kilowatt hour. Electricity in Hawaii costs nearly four times than in Illinois, with 10.86 residential and 7.98 commercial. Many states that pay high prices are located on the coasts, from Long Beach to Boston, says Forbes. New York City pays a high rate as well, for both commercial and residential electricity. Coincidentally, the price of electricity depends on current natural gas prices. When natural gas prices are low, electricity prices also stay low.

Factors in Electric Bills

So, what factors contribute to an electric bill? The two components include price per kilowatt hour of power and total power use, says Forbes. These two factors tend to vary in cities across the country, dependent on variances like proximity to other fuels like coal, transmission capacity amount, labor rates in a particular area, the presence of competition and yes, even, taxes. All of these factors can influence how much you pay for electricity in your city. For example, residents of Orlando, Florida, pay a pretty hefty utility bill, at $292.13, according to Bankrate magazine. San Francisco, as another example, pays $268.43.

Other Options

With so much money going to electricity, you may wonder what is being done to find other sources of power. Increasingly more cities, companies and farms are installing wind and solar power facilities due to government incentives and mandates. However, these options aren’t necessarily more economical. It can get very expensive to construct and operate equipment and transmission lines. If you feel you’re paying too much for power, find out if your community installs smart meters in homes. This can help you drastically cut your power consumption and save money; however, again, they’re expensive to install and they don’t immediately translate to savings like one would expect. High electricity prices aren’t going away any time soon. According to CNS News, electricity prices in May 2013 were the highest on record, with the price of electricity in the U.S. hitting 13.1 cents per kilowatt hour (KWH). This was the highest in nearly 30 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping track, says CNS News.

Byline

Kenneth Baines is a freelance writer based in Toledo, Ohio. Kenneth recommends that Houston residents select one of the most economically attractive electrical companies in Houston when searching for quality affordable electricity rates.

Tips and Strategies to Ace the CPA Exam

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Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Reference And Education | Posted on 29-09-2014

Officially known as the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, the CPA exam is comprised of the required knowledge necessary for a person to become a certified public accountant. A person holding the CPA designation stands to make 5-10% more money than bookkeepers and those who hold just an accounting degree. The exam is the standard test for the 55 state and territorial level boards of accountancy in the United States. The exam represents the only licensing examination for accounting professionals, although it is not a national exam.

A successful CPA performance will rely on the three “E’s”: your education, your exam, and your experience. The four parts comprising the CPA exam are Auditing and Attestation; Financial Accounting and Reporting (for public and private organizations and entities); Regulation; and Business Environment and Concepts. The two day, 14-hour exam is graded on a scale of 0 to 100 and requires a passing score of 75% for successful completion.

Understand the Components of the Exam

To pass the CPA exam, it helps to understand what the individual components are and the type of questions you will see. The format for each of the four sections of the CPA exam include a combination of multiple choice questions, essays and short simulations based on a case study or situation. The current concentration of questions, by topic for each exam section, is broken down as follows:

(a)    Auditing: 12%-16% in engagement, acceptance and planning; 16%-20% in entity and internal control; 16%-20% in procedures and evidence; 16%-20% in reporting; 12%-16% in accounting and review services; and, 16%-20% in professional responsibilities.

(b)    Business Environment: 16%-20% questions in corporate governance; 16%-20% economics; 19%-23% finance; 15%-19% in Information Technologies; 10%-14% on strategic planning; and, 12%-16% in operations management.

(c)    Financial Accounting and Reporting: 17%-23% of the questions deal in concepts; 27%-33% on accounts and disclosures; 27%-33% in transactions; 8%-12% in governmental accounting; and, 8%-12% of the questions deal with not-for-profits.

(d)    Regulation: 15%-19% of the section deals with ethical and legal responsibilities; 17%-21% in business law; 11%-15% in federal tax process; 12%-16% in and gain and loss taxation; 13%-19% addresses individual taxation; and, 18%-24% of the questions in this section regard taxation of entities.

Preparing for the Exam

The CPA designation is based on the three components (“Three Es”). Clearly the two-day exam fulfills the examination portion of the three, but your education and experience in accounting are equally important. You need to rely on your experience and education as a basis for answering the questions presented to you in the CPA exam.

Devote some time to reviewing all study material you can obtain and take advantage of material prepared in different formats, such as on mobile devices. Your time studying is best used not relearning everything but reviewing general concepts and principles that will help you on the test.

Be Ready for the Exam

Being ready means devoting several hours a day for review and practice questions, culminating in a 24-hour study free period prior to your exam. Relaxing your mind and engaging in some activity that is not related to the exam (including a good night’s sleep) will do wonders for your nerves and help you be at your sharpest when you take the CPA exam.

Todd Dawson is a freelance writer based in Lansing, Michigan. Todd recommends that those with an interest in finance check out the financial analyst jobs with moneyjobs.com as a possible doorway into the professional world.