Utilities make progress on Phila.-region outages

Posted: November 03, 2012

Utilities in the Philadelphia area were frantically restoring electricity knocked out by Hurricane Sandy, though some customers were growing impatient after four days without electrical service.

Peco Energy Co. says it was on target to restore service by midnight Friday to 90 percent of the 850,000 customers who lost power. It says most of its remaining customers will be restored by Sunday.

Most of the Peco outages are concentrated in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

In South Jersey, power companies were on a similar pace: 19,300 customers remained powerless in Burlington County; 7,500 in Camden County; 544 in Gloucester County; 5,553 in Atlantic County; 876 in Cape May County; 2,525 in Cumberland County; and 331 in Salem County.

But the story was much more grim in central and northern New Jersey, where the storm flooded electrical substations and devastated utility infrastructure.

Public Service Electric & Gas Co. restored more than 1 million of its 1.7 million customers who were knocked out, and noted that the number of restorations had surpassed its total outage from 2011's Hurricane Irene.

Sixty-three percent of Jersey Central Power & Light Co.'s 1.1 million customers were still in the dark Friday night, with heavy concentrations in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties.

Some unhappy residents in Millburn Township in Essex County, where JCP&L reported that 88 percent of its customers were without service, circulated petitions to urge Gov. Christie to force the utility to step up its response.

Power companies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which were stung by criticism last year about slow responses and inadequate communications after Hurricane Irene struck, reached out through social media and robocalls to soothe the frayed nerves.

"Alright JCP&L this isn't funny any more," a customer with the Twitter handle of Hunta tweeted Friday.

PPL Electric Utilities, the Allentown power company whose 1.4 million customers are spread over 29 counties, reported about 90,000 customers were without power Friday night, down from 170,000 Thursday and 440,000 at its peak.

The company has brought in so many out-of-state utility workers that it set up a trailer camp at Dorney Park amusement park to house 500 people. PPL said it still had 17,000 customers in Bucks and Montgomery Counties who were out of service.

In Philadelphia and its suburbs, Peco said it had completed more than 13,800 repairs since the storm moved out of the region, including more than 2,700 jobs related to damaged trees. Repairs that restored service to multiple customers were top priorities.

The company's customer service unit has handled more than 1 million calls.

Crews from as far as Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland and Illinois have helped the utility replace 70 miles of wire, 8,681 fuses, 1,020 cross arms and 265 poles.

An additional 400 support personnel from Maryland and Peco's sister utility in Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, joined the restoration effort Friday morning.

More than 4,600 Peco employees, contractors and workers are involved in the restoration effort.

Contact Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947, @Maykuth on Twitter or amaykuth@phillynews.com.

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