Montco declares state of emergency, 2/3 of residents without power [Updated]

[Updated, 6:30 p.m.: Peco has restored power to about 9,000 households since this afternoon -- but that still leaves 178,000 out.  As of 5 p.m. outages were still above 90 percent in Upper Dublin, Whitpain, Worcester, Hatfield, and Marlborough -- and 100 percent in Bryn Athyn, Lower Frederick and Upper Frederick.]

Montgomery County declared a state of emergency around 3 p.m. Wednesday, due to mounting power outages and damage from an ice storm.

Commissioner Josh Shapiro said 187,000 Peco customers -- about two-thirds of the county -- are without power.  Many county buildings, including the Willow Grove Annex, the Youth Center's shelter school and some of the county's designated warming stations, are in the dark.

But there are other buildings ahead of them on the repair list -- like Abington Memorial Hospital, which Shapiro said "is in dire need of getting back online and off the generators."

From 4 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the county's Emergency Operations Center fielded 340 calls for electrical fires, 46 structure fires, 1,207 road obstructions, 164 crashes, and more than 3,500 calls for police assistance, Shapiro said.

The state of emergency, Shapiro said, would allow for better coordination with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and to more quickly "procure necessary goods to deal with this disaster -- from blankets to emergency equipment and everything in between."

It will also allow the county to apply for federal -- and possibly state -- disaster money. 

The power outages and damage from Tuesday night's ice storm have already surpassed the damage from Hurricane Sandy.  But during Sandy, temperatures were in the 50s; tonight it is expected to dip to the 20s.

A new warming station will be open at the Human Services Center, on DeKalb Pike in Norristown until 7 p.m.  Additional sites will be announced soon.

Shapiro said residents who lose power should take care to keep their pipes from freezing, and find shelter with friends or at a government shelter.