Peco: Most disruptive storm since '94

Mercedes Fernandez (with umbrella) waits with her daughters Edymaris (right) and Adriana (left) at 5th & Tasker Streets for the SEPTA bus on the first day of school Feb. 16, 2010 since last week's snowstorm. ( Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer )

As of early afternoon, more than 12,000 homes and businesses in the Philadelphia area were still without power, as Peco struggles to recover from its worst weather challenge since the ice storm of 1994.

"We expect service for the vast majority of those customers will be restored by the end of the day today," said Peco spokesman Ben Armstrong.

In South Jersey, about 3,625 Atlantic City Electric customers were still without service at noon, 2,850 of them in Cape May County.

Peco crews, facing more than 600 jobs, might not get to some of the smaller outages until later this weekend, Armstrong said.

"About half of the jobs out there affect less than 10 customers," Armstrong said.

Two-thirds of the outages are just in Montgomery and Bucks Counties. Delaware County has 2,200 addresses without power, Philadelphia and Chester County a few hundred each.

More than 600 people are out in the field working to restore service, including crews lent by utilities in Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore, Armstrong said.

More than 205,000 customers lost service at some point since the storm began Tuesday afternoon, Armstrong said. A much greater number of people were likely affected, since Peco's use of the word customer basically means a single electric meter.

A house with seven family members, for example, would be considered a single customer. So might an apartment building.

As of yesterday morning, more than 60,000 customers were still in the dark.

But some of the damage was apparently delayed. "About 20,000 new outages came in yesterday and overnight," as more limbs fell and more people reported problems, Armstrong said.

The ice storm of January 1994 knocked 549,100 customers offline, meaning that about a third of Peco's customers lost power.

Peco deploys all sorts of crews. "Vegetation management" crews remove trees, Armstrong said. Line crews repair or replace poles and wires. Energy technicians replace external fuses or reset external breakers. Patrollers scout out reports. Wire sitters secure sites with downed wires, until line crews arrive.

Others remove snow, although municipalities often assist with that, as well as with tree removal.

Peco has about 600 office personnel, who coordinate restoration efforts or deal with customers.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or