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PPL sees Hurricane cleanup as multi-day effort

August 28, 2011

With new outages being reported each hour through the day Sunday (8/28), PPL Electric Utilities crews worked into the evening to restore electric service to thousands of customers affected by Hurricane Irene. Customers are being advised to prepare for a prolonged, multi-day restoration effort to clean up and repair the widespread damage.

As of 5 p.m., PPL Electric Utilities said its crews restored service to more than 82,000 customers across its service area, while 230,000 customers remain without service.

Gregory Dudkin, senior vice president, Operations, said the hurricane caused damage to the utility’s transmission and distribution systems, left flooding that affected local substations, and knocked down countless trees and power lines.

PPL Electric Utilities is facing a massive emergency response with 3,500 cases of trouble – individual jobs, large and small, in towns and cities all over the Lehigh Valley, the Pocono Mountains and Northeastern Pennsylvania, Lancaster and Harrisburg regions, and other areas of the state.

“We are seeing substantial damage to electrical equipment throughout our entire service area,” said Dudkin. “We organized an army of workers to respond to the storm, but it will take time to restore service to everyone. This will be an effort over days in the days ahead. We encourage our customers to take appropriate measures based on their personal situations.”

Technical difficulties
Dudkin said the company has experienced technical difficulties with some of its critical information systems for its customer service and distribution operations. “We apologize to our customers who experienced trouble reporting their service interruption or seeking an update on their outage. This storm will go down as the second worst in our history. Unfortunately, we are dealing with some problems that a storm of this magnitude can create,” he said.

Extremely heavy call volume
The company’s customer contact center has handled more than 150,000 calls today through its automated system and with service representatives, 10 times a typical weekday. However, the company had many customers who received busy signals while calling 1-800-342-5775 and its online Outage Center was knocked offline at times.

With heavy rain and strong winds, Hurricane Irene caused fallen trees, downed power lines and broken poles all across the company’s 29-county service area with the worst damage from Lancaster east to the Lehigh Valley and north to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and the Poconos.