Jan Carroll understands power outages are part of a storm, but that knowledge doesn't make it any less frustrating when she can't turn on the lights for a week.
"What really ticks you off is when they say it will be on at a certain time and it's not," the 68-year-old Lower Windsor Township resident said.
She was one of the 62,000 York County residents who lost power when a February ice storm knocked down trees and utility lines.
"First we were told our power would be back in two days. Then we waited and waited for about a week before Met-Ed got it back on," Carroll said.
It took Met-Ed about five days to restore power to its customer base in York County, while it took PPL about four days and Peco eight days, according to a report issued this week by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Overall, the report applauded the utilities' response to the storm. Met-Ed, Peco and PPL were tasked with restoring power to nearly 1 million people across Pennsylvania. Each company hired extra employees who worked around the clock on numerous repairs: 747 poles, 483 transformers, 160 miles of wire, more than 3,000 crossarms and 15,000 fuses/cutouts, the combination of a fuse and a switch that protects transformers from surges and overloads.
Complaints: The utilities did a good job working amid road closures and hazardous conditions, but they could have improved their communication efforts with customers and with county and state officials, according to the PUC report.
During and after the ice storm, the PUC received many complaints like Carroll's.
"Many customers expressed frustration with inaccurate or changed restoration estimates, specifically when the (utilities) have indicated a customer was restored when it was not the case. It is an ongoing problem within the industry," said PUC Chairman Robert Powelson.
Company representatives for Met-Ed, PPL and Peco did not return multiple calls seeking comment about the PUC report.
Recommendations: The PUC offered several recommendations in its report:
•Electric companies should use social media to share information with customers, and their websites should have a clear indicator of where outage information can be accessed.
•Liaisons for the companies should continue to cooperate and communicate with county 911 centers and emergency management agencies during large-scale events. The companies should meet with each county at least yearly to discuss expectations of the liaison program.
•The companies should consider opening customer care centers in hard-hit areas.
•Companies should identify areas where trees and vegetation need to be removed and work to clear those areas.
"Many things went well as utilities worked to restore power to more than 950,000 people who lost service during the February ice storms. However, we also know that some areas need to be improved as we prepare for the next event that results in a large number of customers experiencing power outages," Powelson said.
Met-Ed, PPL and Peco are expected to take the recommendations and issue a follow-up report to the commission in September.
"We look forward to receiving the follow-up reports from the utilities in September that will highlight the progress being made toward implementing these recommendations," he said.
— Reach Candy Woodall at firstname.lastname@example.org.