[PHI] NBC10 First Alert Severe Weather Central

PHI

Chester County Power Problems 'Devastating'

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC10.com - Harry Hairston

    The early morning ice storm caused power outages for more than half-a-million people across the Delaware Valley, including more than 80 percent of customers living in Chester County.

    "It is devastating," said 42-year-old Mai Vance, who lives in North Coventry Township.

    The ice caused trees to fall in the region, taking power lines out with them. Plus the heavy ice weighs down lines on its own.

    At one point, 183,983 customers out of the 212,900 served by PECO in Chester County were without power.

    The energy company says it could take multiple days to make all the necessary repairs throughout the region and some could be without power through the weekend.

    The widespread outages caused the  American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania to setup warming centers in Chester County.

    The centers are loated at Lionville Middle School at 550 W. Uwchlan Ave., Exton and the Avon Grove High School at 257 State Road, West Grove.  Food, drinks and comfort items like soap will be provided, but officials encourage residents to bring games, books or other items to make themselves more comfortable.

    Vance says school was canceled for her two teenagers, so she intended to work from home. The outage nixed those plans, but that is the least of her worries.

    "We have no power, we have no heat, we have no water," she said. Normally an electric pump brings water to her home from a well, she said.

    The family keeps jugs of water in the basement to drink, wash up and flush the toilets and they'll snack on pantry items since they can't cook their food.

    But the chilly temperatures - expected to drop into the low-twenties overnight - are a bigger concern.

    "We will last as long as possible here, but if it gets too cold ... we'd have to leave," said Vance, who can take her family of four to a relative's home in Phoenixville.

    She says she called PECO about the outage moments after it occurred at 7 a.m., but the power company did not give an estimated time for when her lights would turn on again.

    "They usually do," she said.

    Another Chester County resident, Tracey Arnold of Cochranville, had the same experience when she called PECO immediately after her power went out Wednesday morning.

    The Red Cross has been told to be prepared to keep its warming centers open for at least four days and up to six days, according to a spokesman.

    "I haven't seen this in quite awhile," said 41-year-old Arnold, who knew it was a serious situation when PECO didn't offer any estimates.

    Despite having to use a sick day from her management position at Bank of America, Arnold is focused on her other job for the day - keeping her three kids, ages 16, 15 and 11, entertained.

    "We are staring at each other," she said. "They don't know what it's like to be my age when we didn't have so much technology."

    Vance, who is home with her 16- and 14-year-old kids, added their "biggest fear" is they can't charge their devices.

    Like other parents across the region, they are dusting off board games and pulling out decks of cards.

    Regardless of the situation, both moms are in good spirits.

    "At least we are all in it together," Vance said.