In Chicago, Trying to Turn on the Lights

By US Daily Review Staff.

More than 360 ComEd crews are working around the clock to restore power after a severe storm tore through the Chicago area, causing power outages for more than 250,000 customers.  As of 8:00 p.m., power has been restored to over 96,000 customers.

The storm struck suddenly and violently.  According to the National Weather Service, the western suburbs experienced wind gusts of 60 to 90 mph, heavy rain and pounding hail.  In Addison, more than an inch of rain fell in 25 minutes.  There were a total of 3,400 lightning strokes recorded, primarily in the west and south.

The hardest-hit areas are in ComEd’s northern region, where the utility is working with municipal officials and local businesses to provide regular updates.  Some of the communities hardest hit were Lombard, Elmhurst, Wheaton, Carol Stream, Addison, West Chicago, Villa Park, Roselle, Glendale Heights, Elgin and Glen Ellyn. As a result, ComEd is deploying its new Mobile Operations Center (MOC) to help speed the restoration effort.  The unit, which can house 25 ComEd engineers, dispatchers and other key storm response team members, comes fully equipped with the latest communications, satellite and video conferencing technology.  The MOC brings ComEd closer to its customers in times of severe weather and damage to the system.  This will optimize restoration efforts, allowing ComEd to understand and respond to customer needs faster.

To better coordinate response and improve customer service during significant outage-related events, ComEd staff also has been deployed to the Joint Operations Center established by DuPage County.  This enables ComEd and its municipal partners to operate from a pre-designated location within the community to expedite restoration to public health, life and safety facilities.

Other steps ComEd has taken to improve communications during outages include:

  • Strengthened its customer service center’s call volume capacity.
  • Implemented a two-way text messaging capability that allows customers to text their outage to ComEd and get restoration information in response. Customers can text OUT to 26633 (COMED) to report their outage.
  • Launched a mobile application for smart phones that enables outage reporting.

Due to the violent nature of this storm and extensive damage, ComEd is expecting restoration efforts to take several days.  Most damaging to the ComEd system was lightning and high winds, which uprooted trees, downed power lines and damaged electrical equipment.  The outages are difficult and time-consuming to restore because crews will need to remove limbs and entire trees that snarled wires and snapped poles.

ComEd’s restoration process begins immediately with damage assessment.  This process enables the company to determine hardest hit areas and factors it into restoration times. The company then prioritizes outage restoration to ensure public safety first such as police and fire, then hospitals and other critical customers such as pumping stations. Next, ComEd restores feeders, which allows us to return power to the largest numbers of customers at one time, followed by smaller service restorations and individual outages.

To assist with the restoration effort ComEd has requested assistance from neighboring utilities in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri as well as other states to supplement the 360 ComEd crews already in the field.

Public safety is paramount during storms and ComEd encourages the public to remember to take the following precautions:

  • If you encounter a downed power line, immediately call ComEd at 1-800-EDISON1 (1-800-334-7661) or access our website at ComEd.com and report the location. Spanish-speaking customers should call 1-800-95-LUCES (1-800-955-8237). Customers also can visit Twitter for restoration updates.
  • Never approach a downed power line. Always assume a power line is energized and extremely dangerous.
  • Check on elderly and other sensitive family members and neighbors to ensure their safety and make alternate arrangements, as it may be some time before their power is restored.

ComEd also offers the following suggestions for customers experiencing a prolonged outage:

  • Turn off all appliances including your furnace, water heater, and water pump.
  • Leave a lamp on so you can know when power has been restored.
  • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed and open them only when necessary. Food will stay frozen for 36 to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer, if the door remains closed. A half-full freezer will generally keep food frozen for 24 hours.
  • Customers who are on medical support equipment are strongly encouraged to evacuate to a place where they can be comfortable and safe.
All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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