Peco Says It Won't Pay Power-surge Claims Appliances Were Ruined When A Tree Downed A Power Line In Marple. Residents Face Replacement Costs.

Posted: May 31, 1996

MARPLE — Betty Volikas was standing in the kitchen of her Paxon Hollow home on Memorial Day when a power surge shot through the appliances.

``I had the TV on in there, and it went -'' She made a sound like the hiss of a cat. ``The recessed lighting in the kitchen made a funny noise; it went pop.''

When the noises stopped, she said, three of her family's TVs, two VCRs, her daughter's compact disc player and a clock radio had been so badly damaged that they had to be replaced.

Volikas' is just one of the homes and businesses near Paxon Hollow, Sproul and Lawrence Roads dealing with electrical equipment hit by a combined power outage and power surge that affected nearly 3,000 people in the township on Memorial Day morning.

The damage in some cases runs into the thousands of dollars, and Peco Energy Co. said yesterday that it would not pay damage claims from the holiday power surge.

Peco said the disturbance was caused by a fallen tree, a ``non-preventable'' occurrence for the purpose of claims.

``There's nothing the company could have done previously to prevent the power outage and its effect,'' said Peco spokesman Michael Wood.

The fallen tree caused a high-voltage line to hit a low-voltage one directly below it, triggering the surge, said Wood.

He said the tree was more than 100 feet from the power lines, not close enough for Peco to have seen it as a threat to the lines.

Resident Judy Peischl, whose sewer pump broke down after the outage, leaving her family without sanitation facilities for days, said the Peco claims adjuster told her, ``We can't be responsible for every tree in Marple.''

Fallen trees are among the most common causes of power surges and outages, along with car accidents and lightning, said Wood. But a power surge strong enough to burn out appliances is rare, he said.

``Over the course of our entire service in this territory, we may deal with a handful of cases,'' Wood said. ``I would say it's not uncommon, but not frequent.''

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