Aug 28, 2011
With new outages being reported each hour through the day Sunday (8/28), PPL Electric Utilities crews worked into the evening to restore electric service to thousands of customers affected by Hurricane Irene. Customers are being advised to prepare for a prolonged, multi-day restoration effort to clean up and repair the widespread damage.
As of 5 p.m., PPL Electric Utilities said its crews restored service to more than 82,000 customers across its service area, while 230,000 customers remain without service.
Gregory Dudkin, senior vice president, Operations, said the hurricane caused damage to the utility’s transmission and distribution systems, left flooding that affected local substations, and knocked down countless trees and power lines. PPL Electric Utilities is facing a massive emergency response with 3,500 cases of trouble – individual jobs, large and small, in towns and cities all over the Lehigh Valley, the Pocono Mountains and Northeastern Pennsylvania, Lancaster and Harrisburg regions, and other areas of the state.
“We are seeing substantial damage to electrical equipment throughout our entire service area,” said Dudkin. “We organized an army of workers to respond to the storm, but it will take time to restore service to everyone. This will be an effort over days in the days ahead. We encourage our customers to take appropriate measures based on their personal situations.”
Dudkin said the company has experienced technical difficulties with some of its critical information systems for its customer service and distribution operations. “We apologize to our customers who experienced trouble reporting their service interruption or seeking an update on their outage. This storm will go down as the second worst in our history. Unfortunately, we are dealing with some problems that a storm of this magnitude can create,” he said.
Extremely heavy call volume
The company’s customer contact center has handled more than 150,000 calls today through its automated system and with service representatives, 10 times a typical weekday. However, the company had many customers who received busy signals while calling 1-800-342-5775 and its online Outage Center was knocked offline at times.
With heavy rain and strong winds, Hurricane Irene caused fallen trees, downed power lines and broken poles all across the company’s 29-county service area with the worst damage from Lancaster east to the Lehigh Valley and north to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and the Poconos.
PPL Electric Utilities said crews were dispatched based on public health and safety first, with transmission and substation facilities as a high priority. Then, outages are dispatched to crews based on the number of customers affected by the case. (See www.pplelectric.com/outage for more details.)
Customers who are without power and live in more rural or remote areas are likely to be without power the longest and may wish to take steps based on their personal situation. Customers without power who have medical concerns or other sensitivities may also need to relocate. While many customers will be restored each day, it is possible full restoration may take another four to five days.
With visiting personnel from several states, PPL Electric Utilities was managing more than 300 line and trees crews who will be working 16-hour shifts around the clock. A smaller staff of employees will work in the field during overnight hours for emergencies. Experience with past storms has shown the crews can be most productive working daylight hours as much as possible.
“The weather Monday and Tuesday is expected to be much better than today. We’re hoping the outages have peaked and our crews can continue to make some strong progress restoring power tomorrow,” Dudkin said.
PPL Electric Utilities urges customers to call the center at 1-800-DIAL-PPL (1-800-342-5775) to report outages or damaged equipment, such as downed power lines or poles. Please try again if the call does not go through at first. Outages can also be reported online at www.pplelectric.com/outage if Internet access is available.
Use flashlights instead of candles whenever possible, as candles can pose a fire risk. Unplug sensitive home electronics that could be damaged when power is restored. Also, turn off electric ovens, ranges or space heaters that were in use when power was interrupted. More storm safety tips are available at www.pplelectric.com/outage.
PPL Electric Utilities, a subsidiary of PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL), provides electric delivery services to about 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania and has consistently ranked among the best companies for customer service in the United States. More information is available at www.pplelectric.com.
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