PHILADELPHIA -- Regional power companies, aided by out-of-state crews, on Wednesday raced to restore electrical service to more than 600,000 customers that was knocked out Tuesday by Tropical Storm Isaias, and say most customers will be back on line by Thursday or Friday. But some might be without power for days.
Peco, which serves Philadelphia and surrounding counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania, said it had restored service to about three-quarters of the 307,000 customers who lost power Tuesday, and expected 90% to be back online by Thursday.
But disappointment awaits some whose service is difficult to restore. Peco has given estimated restoration times as late as Sunday to some customers in hard-hit Chester and Bucks Counties, said Alexandra Coppadge, a Peco spokesperson.
Public Service Electric & Gas, the New Jersey utility that on Wednesday afternoon had restored power to more than 315,000 of the 575,000 customers who lost electricity, said it expected 85% of customers will be back online by Friday night. But some people at the end of remote circuits may not get power until Monday.
"We'll still be doing work over the weekend, through Sunday and Monday, for the hardest-to-restore customers," said Lauren Ugorji, a PSE&G spokesperson. The outliers include customers with backyard power lines that are difficult for repair crews to reach, or "nested outages," customers whose houses are still without power even after service has been restored to their block.
Power companies have learned from experience that it's important not to promise too much when it comes to estimated restoration times -- that customers are much more disappointed by missed deadlines.
Atlantic City Electric, which by Wednesday afternoon said it had restored more than 80% of the 200,000 customers who had lost power, said it had resumed service to some customers who previously were told they would have to wait until Thursday to get their power back on.
"We were able to restore power sooner than anticipated initially, and we hope to get as many folks back on as quickly as possible moving forward," said Frank Tedesco, an ACE spokesperson. Fewer than 40,000 customers remained without service Wednesday afternoon.
The restoration effort is following a standard pattern where repair crews first fix outages affecting essential services, such as hospitals and public safety facilities, and then undo damage affecting the largest numbers of customers. That drives down outage numbers in the first 24 to 36 hours.
"Usually the first couple hundred thousand customers come back quickly, because they are more high-density areas or are vital customers such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations -- those tend to happen," said Coppadge of Peco.