Crews keep restoring power across region after ‘unusual’ storm

Work continued Monday to restore power to residents affected by the high winds that swept through the region much of Sunday and into Monday.

“It’s very busy here,” Todd Meyers, a Penelec spokesman, said Monday.

First Energy, Penelec’s parent company, reported on its website at 5 p.m. Monday that there were still 48 customers without power in Venango County, 275 in Clarion County, 1,680 in Armstrong County, 817 in Mercer County and 13 in Forest County.

“It’s been a long couple of days,” Meyers said, “but as long as we don’t get any more damage we’re hoping to have power to 95 percent (of customers) by midnight Tuesday.”

Meyers explained that while the area is no stranger to severe weather, this storm was unique.

“It’s an unusual storm … when you have winds continue for 18, 20 hours at an elevated gust, that causes all kinds of damage,”

The winds haven’t been the only thing wreaking havoc on crews’ efforts to restore power. Ken Maleski, manager of communications and public relations for Central Electric Cooperative, said Monday that most of the company’s remaining outages are due to lack of power from their providers.

“If the power supplier hadn’t lost power, this would’ve been a non-issue for us,” Maleski said, explaining that a lack of power at some of Central Electric’s substations was what caused 3,900 of the 4,400 customers to lose power.

Maleski said Central Electric’s outage area is “scattered” from Forest County to Butler County, making it difficult to focus efforts, but he added that crews are working wherever they can.

“We’ll go out and make repairs where we know they need to be made…we’re not just sitting around,” Maleski said.

Meyers also noted that road blockages made response times slower, making it “hard to move around.”

Both Meyers and Maleski said downed wires would be thoroughly checked before the companies would re-energize them, focusing on the safety of their customers and employees.

“We don’t want to energize wires that are laying in people’s yards or on cars…we want to make sure everyone’s safe,” Maleski said.

Both men also said the largest affected areas – Butler and Armstrong counties – would be the companies’ first priority, and that the widespread nature of the storm caused a depletion in manpower.

“We weren’t able to reach out to other First Energy crews and other utilities that have already seen damage or waiting for damage to occur because they have their own problems,” Meyers said.

Venango County 911 dispatchers said 55 trees had fallen across roads and on power lines by Monday afternoon, and that two fires were confirmed to have been started because of the trees on lines. There were no reports of injuries.

Clarion County 911 dispatchers reported no fires but had at least 35 calls for downed trees. They also reported no injuries.

Meanwhile, Big Bend Road (Route 3016) from Highlands Road to Rivera Road in Scrubgrass Township and Georgetown Road (Route 3003) from Old Route 8 in Irwin Township to the Mercer County line were closed during the day Monday due to downed utility lines across the roadways. They were expected to reopen later Monday.

Waterloo Road/Whippoorwill Road (Route 3023) from Georgetown Road in Frenchcreek Township to Academy Street in Utica Borough reopened Monday after being closed.