Fight on to restore power to thousands without power, heat
Peco says most of the tens of thousands residents still in the dark in the Philadelphia area should have their electricity restored by Friday night as reinforcement utility crews arrive to join the around-the-clock emergency repair operation.
Meanwhile, President Obama on Thursday issued a disaster declaration for Philadelphia, its four neighboring counties and Lancaster and York Counties, making them eligible for federal aid.
The latest figures from Peco show that electricity has been restored to 36 percent of the 623,000 customers who lost power in Tuesday's ice storm.
The numbers, however, go up and down because crews need to turn off power to some customers to make necessary repairs, but the overall trend appears to be downward.
Fred Maher, a Peco spokesman, said the majority of customers should have power restored by Friday night, but those remaining will have to wait through the weekend.
The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania said 183 people sought shelter at five locations in the suburbs overnight and more are expected as the outages drag on.
The three Red Cross shelters in hardest-hit Chester County were consolidated into one at West Chester University's field house Thursday.
Gov. Corbett, during a visit to survey some of the damage in Blue Bell, urged residents not to stay in their homes and to consider using the shelters. He also warned against using kerosene or charcoal heaters indoors because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
National Guard troops are on standby, and some have been enlisted to help residents dig out or get their cars moving, Corbett said.
"There are people who are going to be without electricity for a couple of days," the governor said. "We hope they will show some patience and understanding."
Schools throughout the affected suburbs closed today, though some scheduled late openings.
With reinforcements coming from as far as Chicago, up to 5,500 utility workers will be involved in the restoration operation.
The storm was the second-worst in Peco's history in terms of power loss, exceeded only by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which knocked out 850,000 customers.
Corbett said he repair force would be one-third larger than Hurricane Sandy because crews are dealing with ice and cold.
Officials say it is hard for them to quantify how many trees and large limbs came down in the five-county area during the storm and afterward. Amtrak on Wednesday had said it was dealing with dozens of fallen trees on the line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which will remain out of operation all day today.
Here's the latest of what you need to know:
At 2:00 p.m., PECO figures showed 396,099 customers were without power in Southeastern Pennsylvania: 96,310 in Bucks County; 121,678 in Chester County; 40,347 in Delaware County; 128,824 in Montgomery County; and 9,023 in Philadelphia.
Utilities from Canada, Arkansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio have been brought in to help restore power. PECO is warning customers that crews cannot estimate when service will resume until they conduct on-site inspetions. For updated restoration schedule, PECO urges customers to call 1-800-841-4141.
Utilities in New Jersey, where the ice storm damage was much less severe, have nearly recovered.
Public Service Electric & Gas Co., the largest utility in New Jersey, said 2,700 customers remained out of service Thursday afternoon and most should be restored by midnight(thur). The utility, which has 2.2 million customers, said it restored more than 100,000 customers since Wednesday's storm, said Deann Muzikar, a spokeswoman.
The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania has opened shelters at the following locations:
Maple Point Middle School, 2250 Langhorne Yardley Road, Langhorne. Pet Friendly.
Tamenend Middle School, 1490 Stuckert Road, Warminster. Pet Friendly.
West Chester University Fieldhouse, 855 S. New Street, West Chester. Pet Shelter at Ehringer Gym, 700 S. Church Street.
Hatboro Horsham High School, 899 Horsham Road, Horsham. Pet Friendly.
SEPTA: Service remains suspended on the Paoli/Thorndale line as the transit agency continues to with downed trees and power and signal problems. For alternate routes, the agency urges riders to use the trip planner at http://septa.org/stations/rail/stations.shtml
Passengers on Trenton, Chestnut Hill East, Chestnut Hill West and Fox Chase Lines may experience delays of up to 15 minutes due to Amtrak overhead wire problems. Twenty-two bus lines are operating with detours. www.septa.org
Amtrak: There is no service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. www.amtrak.com
PATCO: No problems reported. www.ridepatco.org
NJ Transit: No problems reported. www.njtransit.com
Phillies catchers and pitchers report for spring training in Clearwater, Fla., on Wednesday.
Staff writers Joseph A. Gambardello, Jessica Parks, Michaelle Bond, Ben Finley and Tricia Nadolny contributed to this article.