EEI > Resources & Media > Newsroom > Utilities, Assistance Workers, Racing Toward Power Restoration In Wake Of Irene’s Wrath
Utilities, Assistance Workers, Racing Toward Power Restoration In Wake Of Irene’s Wrath
WASHINGTON (Monday, August 29, 2011) -
Reinforced Monday by an army of emergency linemen, many from faraway states, utility crews comprising more than 20,000 workers up and down the Eastern Seaboard continued the major effort to reconnect electricity to millions of customers affected by Hurricane Irene over the weekend.

“Utilities are achieving significant progress in bringing customers back on line in the wake of one of the most punishing storm systems on record,” said Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn. “Irene delivered a knockout punch and left a trail of destroyed electrical infrastructure from North Carolina all the way to Maine.”

In terms of damage and customers left without electricity, Irene easily rivals earlier storms such as Isabel, Floyd and Gloria, said Kuhn, noting that at its peak, more than six million customers were left without power on Sunday.

“We are making real headway, but there will be no rest until electricity is restored to every single customer,” Kuhn said. “This was an epic hurricane that brought the brunt of a lethal combination of wind and water down on the nation’s most populous region.”

Utility workers from the South to the Midwest and beyond began arriving on the East Coast beginning last Thursday to prepare for Irene’s onslaught—part of the utility industry’s “mutual assistance” pact in which utilities from unaffected parts of the U.S. send linemen and contractors to help speed the restoration of power. Kuhn called the assistance network one of the “truly unique” hallmarks of the power industry, and he praised the crews for working diligently under difficult conditions to restore power.

“We recognize that following a storm of this magnitude, bringing electricity back to everyone can take up to a week or more, a timeline that understandably is very frustrating to many,” said Kuhn, adding that fallen trees, floods and other factors greatly impede the recovery efforts. “Make no mistake, your local utility is acutely aware of the urgent need to restore power and it is taking every possible step to hasten the process.”

Kuhn said that emerging new technologies are facilitating recovery efforts and are a precursor to a modernized power grid in which smart meters can automatically tell the utility command center whose power is out—and greatly streamline restoration times. Utilities also are harnessing the power of social media and better websites to give customers access to real-time data about restoration times.

“Of course, we understand that no technology can eliminate power outages caused by powerful storms or other natural disasters, but we will never relent in the quest to bring those interruptions to an absolute minimum,” Kuhn said. “The urgent imperative of restoration is a vivid testament to how truly indispensable electricity has become to virtually every facet of modern life.”
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