Power has been restored to the majority of customers across the region about a week after a massive ice storm knocked out power to more than half of PECO's customers.
Around 5,000 utility crews from around North America worked around the clock to re-string power lines and get the juice flowing again as scores of homes turned into freezers among sub-freezing February temperatures.
A spokesperson for PECO, the largest power provider in the Philadelphia region with more than 1.6 million customers, said damage in some areas was more severe than they anticipated. On Sunday, PECO tweeted that they expected service for most of their customers to be restored.
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Service to be restored today for many customers without power. Thanks 4 patience as we make repairs after 2nd worst storm in PECO history. — PECO (@PECOconnect) Feb. 9, 2014
Monday morning, PECO spokesman Greg Smore said PECO was still dealing with some extensive damage.
"These estimated restoration times for customers are based on the current conditions and the damage experienced," he said.
Smore said that once crews got on sight they could better estimate when the lights will be flipped back on.
"A lot of this is the extensive damage that we've seen that's been driving a lot of these estimated times to be further out than we first predicted," he said.
Smore said the heavy wet snow from earlier in the week combined with the ice to knock down more lines and tree limbs than normal.
"Service will be restored today to a majority of customers who remain without power," said Smore Monday. "However, some customers in the most heavily-damaged areas will be without service into tomorrow."
By 1 p.m. Tuesday, 2,195 customers were in the dark -- a mixture of customers who haven't had power since the storm and outages that have happened since then.
"We do understand that this is a very difficult time for our customers that remain without power," said Smore.
"We will get the lights on," said PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez. "We're not going to stop until we do. That's our commitment. There's not a single person in the field or in this building that isn't 100 percent focused on how frustrated our customers are."
Finally, by midnight, service was restored to nearly all customers with only scattered outages reported.
The storm, which coated the region in anywhere between a quarter-inch to a half-inch of ice, resulted in the second worst outage in PECO's history and their worst winter storm outage ever.
"This is the second-largest storm in terms of customer interruptions that we've had right behind Sandy," said Smore. "We had a total of 715,000 customers without power."
Menendez said the ice storm was "equally as devastating" as Superstorm Sandy in terms of outages.
"The thing that made it very different are the conditions that are crews faced getting to the job in the beginning when the roads were still icy and the storm was still progressing," she said. "Even now when our crews get on a job site, they have to typically dig out to set up their trucks. They have to chip away ice before they can even make the repairs. That's making the repairs last even longer."
The utility dispatched an army of workers -- some crews from as far away as Arkansas, Illinois, and even Canada joined PECO's repair effort, according to Armstrong. Saturday afternoon, PSE&G, who restored service to the majority of its customers, sent 106 electric linemen to help.
“Ice storms are game-changers for utilities,” said John Latka, PSE&G’s vice president of electric operations. “PECO is faced with a daunting task given the extensive damage from this storm. Our employees know how important it is to get the lights back on, and even though conditions are difficult, answered the call for help.”
Officials say the out of state crews had to get acclimated to the power system and design in Pennsylvania before making repairs.
On Monday, Menendez came to NBC10 to answer questions from PECO customers. You can read those questions and answers here.
Just as the region recovers from the ice storm, they are now preparing for another winter storm, set to hit the area Wednesday night into Thursday.
While PECO officials say they're preparing for the worst, they may not have as many workers on hand. With the Nor'easter expected to hit other parts of the country as well as our own region, the out of state workers may not be able to stick around. Regardless, PECO officials tell NBC10 that they're preparing for an extensive damange situation.
Over in New Jersey, PSE&G said 9,180 customers, nearly all of them in Burlington and Mercer Counties, were without power at one point. By Friday morning, the utility announced that all power was restored.
By Saturday afternoon, Delmarva Power reported power had been restored to all affected customers in New Castle County, Del.
Officials urge people without power to alert the utility and DO NOT call 911.
You can use the following numbers to report your loss of power or make a report through each company's website.
- Emergency: 1-800-841-4141 (24 hour service)
- Customer Service: 1-800-494-4000 (Mon through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. 9 p.m. to 1 p.m.)
- Emergency: 1-800-DIAL-PPL (1-800-342-5775 (24 hour service)
- Customer Service: 1-800-DIAL-PPL (1-800-342-5775) (Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
- Emergency: 1-800-833-7476
- Customer Service: 1-800-642-3780
- Emergency: 800-436-PSEG (7734) (24 hour service)
- Emergency: New Castle County (DE) and Cecil and Harford Counties (MD) 1-800-898-8042
- Kent and Sussex Counties (DE) and the Eastern Shore of Maryland 1-800-898-8045