Six days after a wicked ice storm hit the Philadelphia region, 10,000 PECO customers remain without power. Some homeowners expressed desperation and frustration as they managed through the cold temperatures.
At the height of the storm, 700,000 were without power. Governor Tom Corbett said the ice storm rivaled the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
"The single focus remains to get customers without service restored," said PECO spokesperson Cathy Engel-Menendez. "Every PECO employee works around the clock, everyone has a storm role, working 16 hour days. It's not just the people in the field. And many PECO employees are dealing with power outages themselves."
To compound the challenge to restore power to the lingering customers, a pending Nor'easter is expected to hit the region Wednesday, exactly one week after the ice storm.
PECO is working to get every customer back online despite the weather challenges, and some customers are noticing. Rob Rowello wrote on Facebook, "Just wanted to say THANK YOU to all the PECO linesmen who braved the conditions this past week to get my power back on. You guys are great!"
NBC10 posed viewer questions to PECO representative Cathy Engel-Menendez. Her answers are below:
Rob Rowello: With so many people using portable generators to power their homes, can the media PLEASE let the public know how to safely use them?
Engel-Menendez: It's a personal choice to use a generate. If a customer uses a generator, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for safety. Never connect your generator into the electric system of the home. The risk is if the generator is connected incorrectly it can begin backfeeding into the system. It's energizing out from the home into the PECO electric system. This is called backfeeding. It could hurt guys working on the power line and kill them.
Tracy Ward Marrocco: I'd also like to know how PECO determines who gets sent where and when. The dispatch system seems highly inefficient and archaic.
Engel-Menendez: When we have an emergency, we have crews placed throughout the service terriority so no one geography is prioritized. We restore service first to critical customers. Hospitals, water and sewage treatment faciltiies first so there's safety services for everyone. (The strategy is to determine) what work can we complete that restores service to the largest number of customers as possible. The work is not done geographically. That can cause frustration. We go to a neighborhood, complete a repair job and re-energize the circuit. Some may be left without power because somewhere on the circuit there's another area of damage. Our crews would not be able to stay to restore service right then because they need need to go to the next job with the highest number of customers.
Wendy Davis Anderson: Why did PECO wait until after the storm hit to call for help from other utilities?
Engel-Menendez: When utilities are expericing service needs, they go through the Mutual Assistance Management Organization. They manage identifying service crews to come in and help. Our crews and their contractors who work with us frequently. When visiting utilities come, we have to bring them onboard, give safety briefings and make sure they understand the differences of our system. This storm has resulted in th largest field force we have ever mobilized. There are 6,800 people working on this ice storm response. Only 2,700 of them are PECO employees.
Mike Bigdaddy Fondots: Are they reimbursing for lost food like Edison Power does in California?
Engel-Menendez: Our claims and reimbursement process is designed to reimburse customers for things we could have prevented and did not. Mother Nature and an ice storm is not one of those things.