As the weekend ends, there’s a snow/ice mixture falling outside, with a National Weather Service prediction of an additional 1-3 inches. After the last week this community has endured, no one is smiling about tonight’s snow or more in the forecast for later in the week.
It’s been five days since the historic Winter Storm Nika plummeted the Philadelphia region into darkness. At its peak, there were 850,000 utility customers without power; restoration of power has now brought the number down to about 38,000 remaining households. A review of the PECO website shows the majority without power in the region are customers in Chester County – 13,000 remain without power tonight. Tredyffrin Township remains the focal point of power outages in Chester County. Although there is improvement in restoration, there are still 1,100 households without power on this cold, snowy Sunday night.
Today I ventured out around the township and the vastness of the winter storm damage is remarkable. Although the tree damage is township wide, in my opinion, the highest concentration of damage is on Valley Forge Mountain. Both Tredyffrin and Schuylkill residents on VF Mountain have sustained major property damage – actually, I don’t think there are many houses that escaped the destruction. After driving in that area, it’s now understandable why I’ve heard it described as a ‘war zone’.
Other areas that continue to be plagued with power outages and/or property damage is the Great Valley, especially along Yellow Springs Road, Croton Road between Upper Gulph and Warner Roads, Strafford train station area including Crestline, W. Valley and Homestead Roads, Chesterbrook Boulevard, N. Valley between Swedesford and Lancaster Ave.
Although we all understand that this winter storm was monumental in many ways, once the region has its power fully restored, there needs to be a thorough review – what worked and what didn’t work. In my opinion, PECO came up short on a number of levels. First off, although the major power outage occurred on early Wednesday morning, it was Friday before PECO appeared to get itself fully mobilized, 48 hours after many residents had lost power. By Friday, it finally became obvious to PECO officials, that they needed to call in reinforcements – and help did come, from Arkansas to Canada. I saw one impressive line of 20+ Pike Utility trucks from North Carolina leaving PECO’s Berwyn location this afternoon. It was reported that over 5,000 utility workers arrived to help restore power to the region.
Arguably, the most annoying thing that PECO did was to provide misinformation to its customers – I have yet to find anyone who received an accurate estimated time of restoration from PECO. Rather than constantly changing individuals’ restoration time (making it impossible for people to plan) PECO should have just said that they didn’t know when service would be restored. That approach would have been preferable to giving people false hope with their ‘by 11 PM’ daily speech! We had a displaced family from Croton Road staying with us during the power outage and PECO changed their estimate time of restoration multiple times during any given day, adding immeasurable stress to an already stressful situation. And this went on for 5 days until late this afternoon when service was restored and they returned home to 30-something degree temperatures (inside the house!) and major tree damage outside.
My criticism of PECO is not directed at those men and women serving on the front lines during this winter storm. No, those workers in the field actually ‘doing the work’ are greatly appreciated and thanked for their efforts. It was wonderful how excited people became when they saw utility trucks rolling into their neighborhood! The criticism for misinformation, lack of communication and slowness to respond rests squarely with those at the top of the PECO pyramid.
One last note — If your power has not been restored, you need to call PECO and report the outage (again).