So given the events of this weekend, this post is slightly longer than usual. I’ve broken it out into categories but, if you’d like more details on any of these topics feel free to leave me a comment.
So the National Weather Service forecast for this weekend’s winter storm was right on point. As expected, the storm left record snowfalls throughout our service territory. I hope folks benefitted from my post on Friday about the 6 Things to Do in Preparation for a Winter Storm, and had a chance to pull together essentials because the wet, heavy snow has led to extensive outages across our service territory.
Snow like what fell this weekend can be almost as damaging as ice storms because its weight can cause tree limbs, and even whole trees, to fall on our power lines. When that happens, outages are inevitable. We’ve had reports of more than 1,000 lines down since the storm began Friday afternoon. Montgomery County got hit the hardest by far as their numbers more than doubled the number of outages we’re responding to in Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.
During the storm, our total number of outages peaked at about 105,000. As of 5 p.m. on Sunday (2/7/10) we’ve been able to get that number down to about 53,000. That number doesn’t reflect all of the work our crews have done as they have restored power to over 109,000 customers, some of who experienced multiple outages.
While our crews are working as hard as they can to restore power, the road conditions have made it very difficult for them to reach outage areas. We’re working closely with local governments across the region to get roads cleared and allow our crews to reach those areas.
For all of yesterday and the majority of today, if customers called 1-877-PEPCO-62 to get updates on their specific outages, they wouldn’t have received an Estimated Time of Restoration (ETR). That’s because, the road conditions slowed the process of assessing the impact on our system. Now that we’ve completed that process ETRs are available.
Even though we are now providing ETRs, we want our customers to know that this is a multiple day event. For Prince Georges County and the District, the majority of customers will be restored by Monday morning with the remainder by Wednesday morning. For Montgomery County, where the majority of our system damage was, customers will be restored by Tuesday night with the remainder by the end of the week. Keep in mind that weather forecasts are calling for Tuesday. Due to changing conditions, ETRs may be affected.
Here’s a quick run-down of how we prioritize our restoration effort, with 1 being the highest:
- Downed live wires or potentially life-threatening situations
- Public health and safety facilities without power.
- Transmission lines serving thousands of customers.
- Substation equipment.
- Main distribution lines serving large numbers of customers.
- Secondary lines serving neighborhoods
- Service lines to individual homes and businesses.
As we work to restore power, we ask you to make sure nothing is left on the stove in case it was left on when the outage began. This will help avoid potential fires when power is restored.
We also ask customers to unplug or turn off all appliances that will come on when power is restored. The sudden spike in demand caused by houses all powering-up at the same time could potentially overload our circuits and lead to another outage. We recommend leaving a lamp switched on so customers will know when power is restored. Once that lamp turns on you can start turning appliances on slowly over a 20-minute period.
A Helping Hand
Our crews are highly-trained professionals dedicated to getting our customers back up and running as quickly as possible. But, this is a storm of historic proportions, and in extreme situations like this, even our hard-working heroes could use a helping hand.
Due to the severity of the outages and the fact that they’re scattered across the area, we have received assistance in the form of crews from Delmarva Power, our sister company based in Delaware, and Progress Energy based in the Carolinas. While we don’t normally need assistance, our crews routinely travel around the country to assist other utilities so that when an event like this happens, we have friends standing-by to help.
Earlier this morning I spoke with Tom Graham, Pepco’s region president, and he asked me to pass along his gratitude for everyone’s patience as our teams work to restore power, along with his assurance that we will continue working around the clock until everyone is restored.