Cold snap knocks out power in Center City

Posted: January 09, 2014

BABY, IT'S cold outside.

So cold, in fact, that 60 PECO customers in Center City lost power yesterday, said Ben Armstrong, a spokesman for the utility company.

The outage struck about 4:20 p.m. in the area around 4th and Market streets, Armstrong said. The exact cause was unknown, but officials believed it stemmed from an issue with PECO's underground network in that area.

No injuries were reported during the outage, which lasted about three hours, Armstrong said. It was the only major one to hit the city during yesterday's deep freeze.

Other brief outages struck PECO's coverage area yesterday, including one that knocked out power to 1,000 customers in the suburbs for about 45 minutes.

"We invest in our system throughout the year to maintain reliable service," Armstrong said. "The system responded very well, considering the conditions."

The cold temperatures inspired the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland Interconnection, which operates the electric grid that powers most of the Delaware Valley, to urge residents to cut back on power usage yesterday from 3 to 7 p.m. - ironically about the same time as the outage in Center City.

In a news release, the firm said the frigid temperatures created a strain on the grid, with residents using record levels of energy on heaters and other appliances.

Meteorologists attributed the cold snap that hit the area yesterday to a disruption in the so-called polar vortex that normally spins around the Arctic, bringing record-low temperatures to much of the U.S. Center City dipped to 4 degrees, its lowest since 1988. Windchills felt even lower, sitting in the minus 18 to minus 30 degree range, according to the National Weather Service.

Today's high is forecast at 24 degrees, and temperatures are expected to continue to rise throughout the week.

Come Saturday, the city will thaw with a high of 53 and periods of rain.

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