Pennsylvania power outages, caused by winter storm Nika, leave many in the dark as numbers reached as high as 849,000 on Wednesday. The winter storm brought large amounts of snow, heavy winds and freezing rain, causing icy road conditions in the past few days, but although the storm has passed the region, the effects have only just begun.
It is not the first time for Pennsylvania to see snow and freezing rain this season, but the problems caused by winter storm Nika lie in the amount of snow and ice on trees and power lines. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Governor, asks people to be patient. “To fix all the power outages may take several days, but we issued a disaster emergency proclamation to speed things up as much as possible,” he says.
In the meantime, PECO, Pennsylvania’s dominant utility, is doing everything it can to fix the power outages that have left many in the dark but say it may take several days. According to PECO, the challenge is in the high number of affected customers. Like Governor Tom Corbett, PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel-Menendez asks customers to be patient and to find shelter in the meantime. She explains, “Do not move any power lines that have fallen down, even if it is blocking your car or access to your home. Moving power lines can be very dangerous, as the power lines are connected to an electric system that is still working. The power lines are still energized, so remain at a safe distance and do not touch it.”
PECO states that the situation caused by winter storm Nika is in second place in their top 12 of highest number of power outages. Those caused by hurricane Sandy are at number one. To bring back power as quickly as possible, PECO has assigned 3,500 employees and contractors to work together in the region and another 1,000 linemen from Chicago are expected to help the PECO team on Thursday, but this may not be enough. This morning, PECO reported to have 430,000 power outages to fix. Although this number is lower than the initial 849,000, it is still 9,500 higher than the last number they reported. As some customers gain back their power, others are reporting to have lost power early Thursday morning which keeps the number of power outages going up and down.
In Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Red Cross reported that 183 people sought shelter in one of the five locations on Wednesday. To accommodate as many affected citizens as possible, a mega shelter is being opened at West Chester University on Thursday. The Red Cross advises people to stay with family or friends if it is safe to drive. If this is not possible, there are plenty of options to get through a power outage. People who have a fireplace should make use of it and the fridge can keep foods cool for hours as long as it remains unopened. In addition, it is advised to unplug electric devices, except for one lamp, so it is clear when power returns.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission spokeswoman, Jennifer Kocher, says, “The damage that we are currently seeing is very similar to the damage we have seen after hurricanes. Not only have trees fallen on power lines, but also on the roads and train tracks and this causes a logistical issue.” Throughout Pennsylvania, some SEPTA and AMTRAK services remain suspended on Thursday, affecting many travelers. The NJ Transit and PATCO have not reported any problems and services continue as usual. Although the Pennsylvania power outages leave many in the dark for several days, officials say they will help affected citizens in the best way possible.
By Diana Herst