Geneva electric utilities explain power outage response

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 7:06 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Severe weather this summer has caused more power outages and increased their length, a ComEd spokeswoman said Monday during a presentation at the Geneva City Council meeting.

ComEd spokeswoman Sylvia Rogowski and Geneva Electric Superintendent Michael Buffington spoke to aldermen about how their respective utilities respond to power outages and work together to restore power. Although the city has its own electric utility, it also receives power from ComEd.

Rogowski said three storms in July and one in August caused problems for the electric utility.

“In as little as 34 days, we have dealt with customers that have experienced an interruption in their electric system total over a million,” Rogowski said. “These are enormous storms.”

Specifically, a storm July 1 put 380,000 customers out of power and had reported wind speeds of more than 117 mph that were categorized as an F2 tornado, Rogowski said.

A storm July 18 put 174,000 customers out of power; a July 24 storm affected 300,000 customers; and another storm Aug. 4 affected an additional 227,000 customers.

“There were hundreds and hundreds of power lines that came down in this area,” Rogowski said.

“ComEd responded sending out 400 crews, and we also brought in additional crews from other states. We brought in our contractors and put them to the task of restoring some of these areas. And in many, many of these areas, it was a matter of rebuilding the system.”

Buffington said outages are unacceptable to any customer, and the electric department – with nine linemen and five support staff – work to restore power.

When there is a power outage, Buffington said the first issue is safety – making sure the area is safe for linemen to be working and safe to reconfigure the system to maintain service while working on the system.

“If you don’t make it safe, you create more damage and extend the outage,” Buffington said.

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