State Officials, Utilities Prepare for Major Storm

Utilities are preparing for the potential of significant damage and power outages as Hurricane Sandy moves up the coast.   They’re bringing in extra crews and following the forecast.

PPL spokesman Joe Nixon says they have sister utilities in Kentucky and they’re already arranging to have them come in. They’re also reaching out  to the western states.

First Energy is taking similar steps.  Spokesman Scott Surgeoner says they’re moving crews in from service areas not impacted by the storm to those areas most likely to be hit.  He says they’re also working with mutual assistance organizations to have additional crews ready to restore service if needed.

The storm will be the first major test for changes made after Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the October snowstorm last year. First Energy has a 24 hour outage center on its home page that can be accessed by smart phone. The utility has agreements to place staff at a number of county emergency management offices to aid in coordinating power restoration. PPL has added capacity to its customer contact center to better handle high volume periods.

The utilities want people to notify them if their power goes out. Customers of First Energy utilities can call 1-888-544-4877. The number connects to an interactive system. Customers can also use the outage center on line.

PPL customers can call 1-800-342-5775. They can also use the on line outage center.

Despite the best efforts of the utilities, there could be prolonged power outages.  If you lose service, Surgeoner says don’t turn to unsafe methods of keeping warm. He says propane ovens or stoves should not be used to try to heat the house; they can cause carbon monoxide fumes to build up.  He says generators must be installed properly and used in well ventilated areas where fumes cannot come into your living space.

All downed power lines should be treated as live wires. Damaged power lines should be reported to the utility. Downed wires can also be reported to 911.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is also urging residents to prepare.  You can get a check list on line.

Governor Corbett toured areas hit by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last year and urged people to be prepared for this storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging preparations all along the East Coast.