Storm adds 260,000 outages to already-impressive year of power failure

A downed tree lays atop a crushed car Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Philadelphia. About 228,000 homes and businesses across Pennsylvania remain without power after severe thunderstorms raced across the state. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A downed tree lays atop a crushed car Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Philadelphia. About 228,000 homes and businesses across Pennsylvania remain without power after severe thunderstorms raced across the state. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (AP)
Posted: July 11, 2014

The West Chester Story Slam was just getting started Tuesday night at the Side Bar & Restaurant when a telltale flicker came from the lights above, followed by darkness.

For many of the 50-plus attendees at the monthly event, the drill had become as familiar as the crash of thunder.

Restaurant staff brought out candles, and when the emcee asked whether the show should go on, the crowd started chanting, "Stories! Stories! Stories!" said Jim Breslin, an author who lives just outside the borough and who organizes the Story Slam nights.

"Everyone was in good spirits, and personally, I wasn't surprised. There are a lot of issues around here with storms. Just last week, my house lost power for 13 or 14 hours."

Peco reported 260,000 outages from the swift-moving storms Tuesday night, with the majority in Chester, Bucks, and Delaware Counties. Combined with the 150,000 customers who lost power last Thursday, the region saw more than 400,000 outages in just one week, according to Peco spokeswoman Cathy Engel-Menendez.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, more than 40,000 customers were still without power.

The swift and violent storms that whipped through the area Tuesday night toppled trees and ripped down branches and power lines, even damaging cars in Bucks County and Philadelphia.

They formed along a line, rather than in clusters, according to Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly. "When they do that, the wind threat increases," he said. What's more, the air was full of moisture when the front arrived.

That meant thunder, lightning, and winds that reached 62 m.p.h. in Runnemede, Camden County, with 60-m.p.h. gusts elsewhere.

The latest rounds have added to an already-impressive roster of outages in 2014. As of Wednesday, the total stood at 1.7 million, Peco said.

Thanks largely to the number of storms last winter, including a devastating Feb. 5 ice storm, the tally has long passed 2013's total of 1.15 million. However, this year still has a way to go to catch 2011, when 2.6 million outages were reported.

Some residents say they grudgingly have grown accustomed to what they perceive as vulnerable infrastructure in parts of the region.

The contestants at the Story Slam, who had five minutes each to tell their tales, were perfectly willing to perform in the dark for the privilege of winning a coveted mug.

Catherine Poole, a 20-year resident of Glenmoore, Chester County, said she has lost power so often that every neighbor she knows owns a generator. And not just for winter either - in the last month alone, she said, she has lost power three times.

Once, in 2010, she lost power for a month.

"We just have so many trees around here," she said. "As long as the power lines are above ground, it's going to keep happening."


BY THE NUMBERS

410,000

Peco outages

from July 3 to 9.

1.7 million

Peco outages

since Jan. 1.

1.15 million

Peco outages

in 2013.

2.6 million

Peco outages in 2011.

62 m.p.h.

Peak wind gust

Tuesday in Runnemede, Camden County.

SOURCES: Peco and the

National Weather Service


asteele@phillynews.com

610-313-8113

@AESteele

Inquirer staff writer Anthony R. Wood contributed to this article.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|