Storm Rolls Out, Trucks Roll In– Restoring Power After a Storm
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Storm Rolls Out, Trucks Roll In– Restoring Power After a Storm

Although the clouds have blown through and the sun is out again, being without power following a major storm can be difficult and frustrating. Friday’s storm in New Castle County brought extreme weather only days after Tropical Storm Isaias, which brought significant damage with downed trees and wires as well as destructive flooding in many areas. While our preparation and immediate response restored power to 60 percent of customers within 36 hours, some customers in the most heavily damaged areas could be without power for several days.

A massive restoration process like this one prompt many questions from our customers.  Here are some of the answers to your questions on the way we work to restore your power safely and as quickly as possible in the wake of a major storm:

Why does it sometimes take days to restore power following a storm?

Significant storms like these can cause widespread devastation. Downed trees and damaged electric equipment can cause thousands of power outages. For a single job, we may need to remove trees and install several new poles, transformers, or wires, which requires multiple crews and can take several hours. With a storm of this size, those challenges are multiplied and can result in thousands of unique jobs to restore service for all customers. Also, additional bad weather can roll through during restoration efforts, hampering repair work and causing more damage and outages.

Why do the restoration estimates sometimes change?

We know our customers rely on power restoration estimates to plan their schedules and work to give the best estimate possible with the information we have at the time. As we are able to more closely inspect the damage and the specific repairs that will be needed, we provide updates to the estimated restoration time.

Do you bring in other workers to assist with restoration efforts?

When our system is severely damaged causing thousands of outages, we do call for reinforcements. When crews from local energy companies travel to assist companies in other parts of the country, this is called mutual assistance. We are also part of several regional mutual assistance organizations, which provides us with a network of electric utility workers from across the country.  Fortunately, we can first turn to our Exelon sister utilities, BGE, ComEd, Atlantic City Electric, PECO and Pepco, and we can quickly bring in hundreds of additional utility workers to help us restore service for our customers. That is exactly what we did with this most recent severe weather impacting New Castle county.

Are old equipment and poles the reason outage restoration can take so long?

We are routinely upgrading the energy infrastructure that serves our customers and region, and storms like these demonstrate the critical importance of the reliability improvements we have been implementing across our service area.  These efforts include replacing aging wood poles that are more vulnerable to storm damage with stronger, state-of-the-art steel utility poles, capable of withstanding winds up to 120 mph, and adding greater automation on the local energy grid with new substations and equipment. For more information on reliability enhancement projects across our service area, visit atlanticcityelectric.com/reliability.

Why do crews come and look at the damage and leave, or stand around without starting repair work?

Safety is our priority for our employees as well as our customers. Before our crews can start work, they must assess the damage and determine the proper next steps.  Our crews are working with electricity, so as you can imagine there are very specific steps and precautions that must be followed so they can safely perform work. This may include shutting off power to a specific area and waiting to ensure it is safe to begin.  Once our crews receive the proper notifications, work can begin.