More power back: Households affected dip below 100,000

Posted: February 10, 2014

Update 6:30 a.m. - Peco reports 62,700 customers without power, 33,300 in Chester County


About one in five households in Chester County remained without electricity three days after a massive midweek storm hit the region, bringing down snow-laden trees and branches that took out power lines.

More than 5,000 utility workers were repairing the system through the day Saturday, bringing the number of households without power below 100,000 for the first time.

By 11 p.m. Saturday, the outage map on the Peco website showed more than 39,000 customers without power, about 18.4 percent of the utility company's 206,200 households in Chester County. Montgomery County had about 21,000 customers, about 7 percent, without power, down from 42,500 late Saturday morning. Bucks County had about 15,944 customers without power, about 7 percent of Peco's customers there.

Delaware County had about 3,930 customers without power, about 1.4 percent of customers. Fewer than 1,000 customers in Philadelphia lacked power Saturday night.

Most should see electric service restored by the end of the weekend, said Greg Smore, Peco spokesman. But, he warned, some customers in hard-hit areas of Chester and Montgomery Counties will continue to see outages for several more days.

Thousands of customers were brought online throughout the day Saturday. By late Saturday, the map on Peco's website showed, fewer than 82,000 customers in the five-county region remained without power.

At the outage's peak, 715,000 customers were affected.

Peco ranked the event as the largest winter power outage in its history. It was second overall only to 2012's Hurricane Sandy, the company said.

More than 5,000 workers were clearing downed trees and repairing wires, with half of those crews coming from out of state.

Workers have come in from as far away as Arkansas and Canada, Smore said. "We're all working around the clock to restore service. We definitely have put together a massive field effort."

On Saturday, crews from New Jersey's PSE&G joined the effort. The utility sent more than 100 workers, expected to put in 16-hour shifts for the next three to five days, the company said in a news release.

The ice storm presented unique challenges that left the state's power grid and infrastructure more damaged than Hurricane Sandy had, state officials said Friday.

Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said that when power-line poles blown down during the hurricane were fixed, that restored power to large areas.

But in this storm, he said, there are "many more spot repairs" to downed wires that feed power to fewer buildings. "There are literally thousands of places like that."

Two shelters, one in West Chester and the other in Hatboro, served 96 people overnight Friday into Saturday, the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Hatboro shelter was closed Saturday morning, with remaining residents bused to the West Chester location.

The West Chester shelter had 67 people overnight, down from the more than 180 that spent Thursday night there. That location, the remaining Red Cross shelter in the region, will remain at least through Monday morning, the Red Cross said.

About two dozen adults and children were spending Saturday afternoon at the shelter reading, sleeping and playing games.

"Keeping the kids busy is the fun part," said Brendan Barakat, 21, a senior economics major at West Chester University, who has been volunteering to help the 40 or so youngsters who have called the shelter home in the aftermath of the storm. There was kickball and wallball for some, Play-Doh, puzzles and puppets for others.

After a few days without heat in his Coatesville apartment, Bro Cooper didn't want to bother friends or family for a place to stay, so he called 911 looking for help.

The Red Cross "took me in," he said. "They're good people."

At the peak, about 190 area residents took advantage of the services at the shelter, according to the Red Cross.

Most of the remaining population is elderly or has special needs, spokesman Dave Schrader said Saturday morning. The shelter has bathrooms, showers, and food; pets are welcome, but are housed about half a mile away from the main area.

"It's gone very well on our end," Schrader said. "And these people have been very patient. People have been understanding - they know that it's not the ideal situation, but they're making the best of it."



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