As of 7 a.m. on Thursday, 1,656 PECO customers in Radnor Township were still without power in their homes and businesses.
That’s a small amount of people compared to the 850,000 PECO customers impacted during Hurricane Sandy. But the temperatures are cooling; how are Radnor Township’s “powerless” coping?
Either you can handle it or you can't
Villanova resident Nelson Dayton is in a unique but not-too-hopeful situation. A resident of Aldwyn Lane, Dayton said they often lose power when giant trees on South Ithan Avenue fall during storms. But this time, after one of those trees fell on Monday, so did a tree in one of his immediate neighbor’s backyard, responsible for eight residents on Aldwyn.
“We’re like the lowest priority, we’re going to be last,” said Dayton, who can see the majority of his neighbors with lights on staying in their warm homes. Dayton said they are powering their refrigerator with a small 1,500-watt generator (a three-year old product that he said had never been taken out of its box).
The last few days inside his house the temperature has gone down to 58 degrees, but the next few nights may dip into the 30s. “As it is now we’ve got to wear double clothes and a knitted hat — just like the old days,” Dayton said.
Dayton said they might consider going to a hotel for one night, but otherwise prefer to “stick it out.” One night they cooked on the grill, other times they got take-out meals or went out to dinner.
“You definitely have to change your mind set. Either you can handle it or you can't,” he said. What is a lifesaver is having running, hot water, he said. The gas lines, the water mains — they are invaluable.
“Where are they located? Underground. Where the darn wires outta be,” said Dayton.
Ted Coyle, a resident of Chandler Lane in Villanova, said he does not like to complain, but that he found when lives were at risk there was not good communication and enough help.
On Monday evening a tree on his road fell on wires and caught fire. Coyle and other neighbors called PECO, but he said it was not until the following afternoon that a PECO crew came to the scene. There, a PECO employee told him that the number of people in an outage that call contributes to the priority of the service.
Coyle said they now randomly lose power three or four times a month. “The problem is, what the heck’s the power company doing and when we do have a crisis when people could die, total ineptitude in response,” he said.
He said barriers that emergency response units put up do not really keep people out or convey the danger of live wires. He said it was only neighbors standing outside together that prevented another neighbor from unknowingly driving into a dangling one.
In preparation for the next time, Coyle said he plans on getting all of his neighbors to call PECO during outages. “We’re buying camping supplies… I don’t know what else to do.”
Coyle said while Radnor Township employees did “an incredible job,” he thought that emergency service units were lacking in the right protocol for the situation.
They blocked off the street, but “didn’t go door-to-door to see if anyone needs help.”
What PECO Says
Martha Phan, a spokesperson for PECO, said more than half of their customers’ power was impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
As of Thursday evening they still had about 200,000 buildings without power, mostly in Bucks and Montgomery counties. They estimate that they can get everyone’s power back on by the weekend.
In any situation Phan said they focus on “critical customers” first like hospitals, for example. Then they work where they have the greatest impact.
A circuit that serves 3,000 will get worked on before one that serves 30 homes. That’s “logical,” she said. “We told people that we think we would take a week to restore everyone to help manage expectations,” Phan said.
“We understand people are cold and frustrated,” she said. “We got a huge hit from Mother Nature and we’re trying to do our best.”