Utility companies in Illinois and surrounding states had their work cut out for them this past week after the tornadoes that struck Illinois on Nov. 17.
ComEd, Consumers Energy, Indianapolis Power & Light, and Ameren Illinois were just a few of the utilities that spent countless hours before, during, and after the storm to ensure customers were being communicated with and had services restored as quickly as possible.
Social media played a big role in keeping customers informed, with ComEd and Consumers Energy utilizing resources such as Facebook and Twitter to send real-time status updates as well as photos of storm damage and crews working hard to get everything back up and running.
ComEd began posting updates Nov. 17 prior to the storm to prepare customers. "We have activated our emergency response centers, engaged additional field crews, and are standing by to respond to any potential power outages," the utility posted on its Facebook page on Nov. 17th. More than 570 ComEd and contractor crews, including crews from Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin worked to safely and diligently restore service.
ComEd also encouraged customers to report outages via text, facebook, mobile app, and its website. Its last post on Nov. 19th reported less than 1,000 out of approximately 200,000 impacted customers had services restored by 10 p.m. that night.
Consumers Energy had similar postings on its Facebook page and website to keep customers in the loop on estimated restoration times. The utility posted it last storm-related update on Nov. 22, with the good news that only 3,600 customers remained without power. It also reported 1,800 of its field workers were involved in the restoration efforts for what it referred to as "the largest storm in more than five years."
Ameren Illinois crews and contractors totaled more than 1,500 individuals to complete repairs and restore services to a majority of its customers in the hardest-hit areas. The utility reported more than 148,000 customers without power at the peak of the outage.
"My hat goes off to the field personnel and support staff for the tremendous work they have performed in less than ideal conditions," Richard Mark, president and CEO of Ameren Illinois, said in a statement.
Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) was able to restore more than 98 percent of outages within 48 hours to help its 26,000 affected customers get back their services. Crews responded to close to 500 incidents, such as downed lines and broken poles. The utility credited the quick restoration time to the efforts of the more than 100 linemen from the Great Lakes Mutual Assistance Group who aided in pre-storm preparation and assistance.
To further assist those affected by the storm, Sprint announced it is providing credit for a number of its services retroactive from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16, as well as several other courtesy discounts and services. The company is also providing wireless voice and secure IP data communications to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, as well as other local first responders and emergency personnel.