Feb. 05--Hundreds of thousands of people are without electricity after a winter storm hammered the Philadelphia region with a mix of ice and rain, bringing down wires and trees already burdened by snow.
Pennsylvania's northern and western suburbs have been hit the hardest.
Latest figures from PECO show more than 584,000 customers are without electricity in the four suburban counties and Philadelphia, making it the second worst day in the utility's history.
Chester County is leading the list, with 85 percent of PECO's customers there in the dark.
SEPTA Regional Rail lines also have been slammed by downed trees, frozen signals and power problems.
"We are looking at a multiple-day restoration effort," said Cathy Engel Menendez, a PECO spokeswoman. "We want our customers to understand that."
"Extensive damage," is how Engel Mendendez describes what's going on. "What's most concerning is it's still occurring."
The cause behind the havoc may be over, but the utility is worried more outages may be just around the corner. Overnight rain, ice and snow piled onto utility lines and tree limbs already made dangerously droopy by heavy snow from the first storm of the week on Monday.
The power outages and road conditions prompted schools and government offices in the Pennsylvania suburbs that had planned to open late to close for the day instead.
Two emergency shelters and one warming center will be opening this afternoon in Chester County, said Bill Turner, the county's emergency planning coordinator.
He said he has never seen outages this widespread in the county.
"Even when we had the hurricanes that came through we weren't even near this number," he said. "It's pretty astronomical."
Turner said the first priority in addressing the outages is getting electricity restored to nursing homes, hospitals and residences where individuals have medical equipment that needs power. The county's government services building on Westtown Road in West Goshen Township, where its emergency operation center is located, is operating on a generator.
At least one serious injury has been reported. A man was critically injured by a falling branch in Narberth.
Driving conditions are improving on major highways, though fallen trees, tree limbs and wires are blocking some roadways.
South Jersey appears to have been spared the brunt of the storm.
"Camden County has dodged the bullet to a large degree," said Dan Keashen, county spokesman.
Heres the latest of what you need to know:
PECO reports 584,726 customers are without power in Southeastern Pennsylvania: 133,810 in Bucks, 184,651 in Chester, 65,535 in Delaware, 175,723 in Montgomery and 25,007 in Philadelphia. The total means one-third of PECO's 1.7 million customers in the five-county area are in the dark.
The record number of outages for PECO was 850,000 set during Sandy in 2012. The previous No. 2 was 549,100 set during an ice storm on Jan. 7, 1994.
PECO is strongly warning residents to stay away from all downed lines that may be in their path.
"Customers need to remember that any downed electrical wires, they should always assume that's energized and stay away from it -- even if the power is out in the neighborhood," said Kathy Engel Menendez, a spokeswoman for the utility.
Customers who lose power are urged to notify Peco by calling 800-841-4141, or on its website, www.Peco.com.
In New Jersey, 61,000 utility customers had lost power, including 40,423 customers of PSE&G; 19,180 of Jersey Central Power & Light and 1,842 of Atlantic City Electric, state officials said.
The State Police Headquarters and Office of Emergency Management in West Trenton was among those affected and was operating on generator power.
Regional Rail: Passengers may experience delays of up to 40 minutes on trains that are running. Service suspended on Paoli/Thorndale, Cynwyd, West Trenton and Warminster Lines. Train 9700 from Trenton will operate express from Cornwell Heights to Center City due to passenger overcrowding.
Norristown High Speed Line: Full service has been restored.
Trolley: Service restored on the Routes 101 and 102 trolleys.
Bus: Service suspended on Routes H, XH and 120. There are currently 25 routes operating with detours.
For more information: www.septa.org. (As of 9:30 a.m. @Septa reports that the website is experiencing difficulties.)
No problems have been reported yet. www.ridepatco.org.
Northeast Corridor trains suspended in both directions, due to icy overhead wire conditions.
Cross-honoring of bus and train tickets is in effect.
Service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia is suspended.
Numerous accidents have been reported and several roads have been closed due to accidents, icing or downed trees on both sides of the Delaware River, police say.
Pennsylvania Turnpike officials report fallen trees are blocking lanes along the southeastern stretch of the highway and on the southern part of the Northeast Extension (I-476).
PennDot has lifted speed restrictions on regional freeways.
A 25 mph restriction is in effect on Ben Franklin Bridge and 35 mph on the Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross Bridges.
A Narberth man is in critical condition after an ice-covered tree branch fell on him Wednesday morning, according to a borough official.
The incident happened shortly before 8 a.m. near Shirley Road and Haverford Avenue, according to Narberth Borough Manager Bill Martin. The man, whose name has not been released, was taken to the trauma unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
"Although he was conscious, his condition is being reported as critical," Martin said.
Chester County public schools, which had planned delayed openings, are closed due in part to widespread power outages, said Emergency Planning Coordinator Bill Turner.
The Lower Merion and Radnor School Districts also have decided to close.
Philadelphia public school students already have a day off. Archdiocesan schools are opening an hour late.
Delayed openings appear to be the choice of most districts that have not closed.
West Chester University is closed.
All classes at Temple's Ambler campus have been canceled.
Ninety-Six flights have been canceled either to or from Philadelphia International Airport and 31 others are delayed, according to Flightaware. Check flight information at www.phl.org or www.flightaware.com.
Montgomery County government offices and courts are now closed.
Gov. Christie has declared a state of emergency in New Jersey. State offices are closed.
City of Philadelphia offices are open for normal business hours today. Traffic courts will open on a 2 hour delay.
All Bucks County offices (except 24/7 operations) are running on a two hour delay today. All morning court proceedings will begin at 11 a.m.
The Delaware County Courthouse and Government Center will open two hours late. The County Council public meeting will begin at 11 a.m., an hour later than scheduled.
Two hour delay at Montgomery County government offices.
The Philadelphia Zoo is closed.
Staff writers Joseph A. Gambardello, Jennifer Lin, Edward Colimore, Tricia Nadolny and Maria Panaritis contributed to this article.
(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Storm Impact: More than 580,000 customers without power
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