Summer storms ravaged the mid-Atlantic coast over the last week, leaving more than 2.5 million people without power. PPL Electric Utilities has sent several work crews to help restore power, including five workers from the local region. However, due to new upgrades in its power system, Teri MacBride, regional community relations director for PPL, explained that the Susquehanna Valley power system has been adequately upgraded to deal with summer weather.
In response to the mid-Atlantic utility outages, PPL sent dozens of crews down Sunday to help restore power. According to MacBride, 33 employees have been sent to West Virginia, and 150 contract workers are helping to restore power in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
"Sending crews down was the right thing to do," she said. "We participate in a mutual aid program and have used those services in the past. Now we have the ability to go help others."
MacBride explained that crews from other power companies came to help restore power after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee ravaged the area last fall.
Taking the lessons they learned from last year, the electric company spent the winter preparing its system for summer weather.
"During the winter we really focused on conditioning the system for summer, to ensure we could deal with the types of problems the summer heat and storms bring," said MacBride.
Upgrades included rebuilding existing lines so they could handle a greater capacity, building new power lines and installing remote controlled switches that will allow for faster recovery times during outages. Workers also replaced power transformers, circuit breakers, poles and other support structures for lines.
"This year we spent more than 20 million system-wide to do reinforcements and inspections," MacBride said.
"We also spent about 45 million to clear trees and vegetation around power lines," she added.
MacBride explained that tree-related problems were the most common cause for power outages.
"No matter how much advanced planning you do, you can't always account for everything that can happen in a true emergency like these storms, but we're feeling confident that we've made the right investments," MacBride said.