Hundreds of Penelec and REA customers were without power on Wednesday afternoon after winds of up to 49 miles per hour blew through Indiana and nearby counties.
The largest reported outage in this series of issues affected 1,422 REA customers in and around Carrolltown, Cambria County. REA also reported 365 affected people between Penn Run and Yellow Creek State Park and 242 in the Brush Valley area south of the park.
It was also there that Penelec had its biggest problem during the midday storms, which affected 749 customers in Clymer, 399 in Cherryhill Township and 384 in Green Township.
The Indiana County Emergency Management Agency said the Pine Township and Nicktown volunteer firefighters were called at 11:56 a.m. for utility lines along Route 553 in Pine Township
Half an hour later, Commodore Volunteer Fire Brigade were dispatched to attend to utility lines along Musser Street in Green Township, while shortly thereafter ICEMA dispatched Clyde and Armagh/East Wheatfield volunteer firefighters to attend to utility lines along Coal Road in West Wheatfield Township .
There were also troubles to the north, including a tree along Lockvale Road in Banks Township at 12:15 p.m. that forced ICEMA to dispatch the Big Run Area Volunteer Fire Department from across the Jefferson County line.
Isolated outages were also reported in nearby areas, with the largest reported to FirstEnergy, including 162 customers affected by two outages in Kittanning Township, 110 customers without service in Cowanshannock Township, 88 customers in Plumcreek Township and 50 in South Bend Township, all Armstrong County and 284 in Ligonier Borough and Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County.
Winds picked up at Jimmy Stewart Airport in Indiana County in White Township just before 11 a.m., with a gust of 49 mph reported at 11:35 a.m. and gusts that stayed above 30 mph for several hours .
Coincidentally, FirstEnergy subsidiary Penelec announced on Wednesday that it was completing inspections and maintenance of equipment to keep power flowing to customers to keep them safe and comfortable in the cold months ahead.
“Our winter preparations are focused on getting our electrical distribution and transmission systems ready to safely provide our customers with power when they need it most to stay warm,” said Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania offices , which includes both Penelec and West Penn Power.
“By proactively working to protect our energy infrastructure and preparing our trucks and personnel, we will be better positioned to respond to the challenges presented by freezing temperatures, storms and snowstorms,” Wyman said.
Penelec spokesman Todd Meyers said substation electricians inspect critical components with “thermovision” cameras, which take infrared images of equipment to spot potential problems that aren’t visible during regular visual inspections. The infrared images show heat on a color scale, with lighter colors or “hot spots” indicating loose connections, corrosion, or other issues that need repair.
Utility workers can then proactively repair substation equipment to avoid blackouts while customers crank up their heaters to combat the cold.
Meyers said some larger substations have buildings that house remote-controlled equipment that needs to be in a climate-controlled environment to function properly. Crews winterize these control buildings and make sure their heating systems are ready for the season.
Helicopter inspections will also be completed, including approximately 2,500 miles of transmission lines located in the Penelec footprint. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wiring, broken cross arms, and other hardware issues that aren’t visible from the ground.
Erie-based Penelec also said tree contractors have trimmed about 3,800 miles of power lines this year and are on track to complete more than 4,300 total miles of trimming by the end of 2022.
According to Meyers, FirstEnergy customers can view severe weather preparation tips and recovery updates when storms cause power outages by visiting FirstEnergy’s 24/7 Power Center at www.firstenergy corp.com/outages.
With the winter storm season comes freezing temperatures and rising energy costs.
Customers can take steps to keep their homes comfortable while managing their electricity bills during this cold season. FirstEnergy gave these tips:
• Set the thermostats as low as comfort allows. Every degree that a customer can lower the temperature in their home means they use about 3 percent less energy in the winter.
• Seal any leaks at windows and door frames with caulking or weatherstripping to prevent cold air from entering your home.
• Close the chimney damper when not in use to keep cold air out.
• Close the curtains at night. During the day only open those that receive direct sunlight.
• Use a programmable or smart thermostat to keep temperatures lower when no one is home and raise the temperature before you get home.
• Check the oven fan filters. Clogged filters waste energy and money by forcing a heating system to work harder than necessary.
Additionally, FirstEnergy suggested customers should ensure their homes are properly insulated, with at least six inches of insulation.
Meyers said payment arrangements and assistance programs are available for Penelec and West Penn Power customers who need help with their utility bills. For more information, visit www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist.
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