- By Grace Suizo
The Northeast has been hit hard over the past few weeks by massive storms of snow and ice, resulting in hundreds of thousands of residents in at least 10 affected states losing power.
PECO even referred to the storm as the second-worst in company history, topped only by Hurricane Sandy, reported Accuweather.com. In southeast Pennsylvania alone, on Feb. 7 more than 600,000 were reported to have been left without power following a foot of snowfall.
Several states declared states of emergency, as road and air traffic conditions deteriorated during the storm. Multiple accidents were reported along major roadways, including one fatal incident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, according to the weather service.
Utility crews battled rough weather conditions, which continued on through Valentine’s weekend. The resounding theme throughout these storms has been mutual aid. Many utility companies made it a point to go beyond their own immediate customer service areas to ensure that sister companies and other utilities in surrounding areas had as much help as possible for faster restoration times.
A good chunk of the utilities in these areas had also been anticipating the storms and were able to provide real-time updates to customers through their own websites, as well as social media sites such as Facebook.
On Feb. 5, PECO said more than 3,000 personnel, including 1,500 field employees, were working to restore service to its 620,000-plus customers and would continue to work around the clock to make repairs. “PECO’s emergency response organization is activated and every PECO employee is focused on storm restoration activities,” according to a statement on its website.
PECO even enlisted the help of New Jersey-based Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G). PSE&G utility dispatched 106 electric linemen and support personnel from different locations throughout its service territory to Pennsylvania on Feb. 8.
Proper planning played a huge role in the effectiveness of getting PPL Electric’s customers back on line. On Feb. 7, PPL posted an update on its Facebook page: “…as bad as the damage was, it could have been much worse had we not stepped up our program of removing and trimming trees that can affect service during storms. Many customers never lost power because of those efforts.”
The utility had about 1,600 field personnel working on getting the lights back on for its customers, which included “reinforcements” from Alabama Power and Georgia Power. “Special thanks to Alabama Power and Georgia Power crews for lending a helping hand and joining us in the restoration effort,” PPL shared on its website.
In anticipation of the storm, Delmarva — which provides services to Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia — posted on its website that extra line and tree crews will be available, and the Call Center will be staffed overnight. “In addition to internal crews, Delmarva has additional overhead line contractors already working on the system available if needed. Pepco Holdings Inc. (PHI), parent company for Delmarva Power, is also asking for more contractor support and has asked for 400 mutual assistance crews from other utilities.”
Baltimore Gas & Electric has also been gearing up for storm conditions. More than 1,600 line workers and support staff were mobilized in advance of the storm, including more than 530 line workers from 11 different states.
On Feb. 12, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) implemented its storm restoration plan in anticipation of the expected storm. "We are prearranging employee schedules to enable our crews and support personnel to be in place should outages occur. Additional support can also be called if needed from our Emergency Response Team program with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Locals 102 and 400,” said Jim Fakult, president of JCP&L, in a statement.
As of Feb. 16, Georgia Power announced it had successfully completed restoring electric service to 99% of affected customers throughout the state. At the height of restoration efforts, the company had a total of 8,000 employees, contractors and personnel on loan from other utilities spread across the state working 24 hours a day to restore power for customers, according to a company statement.
A storm team of more than 50 line personnel and support staff from Gulf Power Company joined the efforts on Feb. 10. Tampa Electric, a member of the Southeastern Electric Exchange (SEE), which is a network of utilities who pledge mutual assistance in case of storms or other emergencies, also sent about 140 people to northeast Georgia to help Georgia Power restore electricity. They included 80 contractors, 40 linemen, and 20 support personnel.
FPL also sent its support to Georgia Power Feb. 11 by deploying 300 employees and contractors. "FPL is all too willing to offer assistance to other utilities in their time of need, just as they often provide assistance to our company when FPL customers are impacted by a hurricane, tropical storm or other natural disaster," said Eric Silagy, president of FPL in a statement. "Regardless of the time of year, FPL is always on call. We are prepared to deploy additional resources should Georgia Power or any other utility have a need as this weather system approaches."
On Feb. 17, Duke Energy announced it had restored more than 907,981 customers. More than 6,200 resources — including 3,900 line and tree personnel, including employees and contractors from the company’s Midwest and Florida operations — supported restoration efforts.
Massachusetts-based NSTAR Electric & Gas shared its excitement Feb. 17 as well. On its Facebook status, the utility posted its progress: “We’re almost there! Line crews, tree crews and support personnel made great progress overnight with about 200 outages left this morning. As we enter the final phase of our restoration effort, which includes making some of the toughest repairs, NSTAR crews remain hard at work with support from our sister companies.” The 200 outages as of that morning were down from the original remaining 250,000 outages from Feb. 7.