Wintry weather brings power outages

Tuesday’s wintry mix led to numerous outages in the area, but most people were expected to have their power restored by Wednesday evening.

Penelec reported a few scattered power outages in Altoona but had about 1,000 customers without power in Cambria County, said spokesman Scott Surgeoner of FirstEnergy Corp., Penelec’s parent company.

Surgeoner said about 600 customers in the Ebensburg area and another 400 in other areas of the county lost electricity Tuesday afternoon and evening, most as a result of tree branches falling onto power lines.

“We had some significant icing in the higher elevations. We had crews out all night, management and supervisory personnel and other FirstEnergy crews. We are also using line contractors,” Surgeoner said.

Systemwide, as of noon Wednesday, service had been restored to 13,700 Penelec customers – approximately 85 percent of the customers impacted by the storm that brought freezing rain, ice, wind and snow to Penelec’s 31-county service area.

Crews made up of supervisory personnel from Penelec and FirstEnergy’s Ohio Edison and Cleveland Electric Illuminating utilities in Ohio were performing restoration activities. Local contractors were supporting the effort. Crews will remain in place throughout the holiday weekend to ensure timely restoration in the event additional inclement weather disrupts electrical service.

Penelec line workers represented by Utility Workers Union of America Local 180 remain in a lockout after union members rejected the company’s “last, best and final” contract offer Sunday.

Meanwhile, the majority of Valley Rural Electric Cooperative members who experienced storm-related power outages during the overnight period saw service restored by late Wednesday morning.

Ice accumulation on tree limbs caused the bulk of the service disruptions as a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain moved through the area. Rising temperatures Wednesday aided the repair effort.

In many cases, higher elevations in Valley RECs eight-county service area were the hardest hit. The number of outages peaked at over 6,400 but dropped significantly by late Wednesday morning.

“In a roughly 12-hour period of time we got our number of outages down to just over 1,000,” said Todd Ross, Valley REC operations manager in a statement. “Our line crews and office personnel really show a lot of dedication and put in some long hours to get power restored during a widespread event like this.”

As of late Wednesday morning, 980 members in Huntingdon County were without power, while 150 were without power in Blair County. The Blue Knob area was hardest hit in Blair County, while in Huntingdon County outages were most numerous in the Cassville area and areas of West, Barree, Oneida, Henderson, Dublin and Tell townships.

Two portions of Old Route 22 remained closed until late Wednesday afternoon.

Old Route 22 eastbound was closed from the Cambria County line to the intersection of Valley Forge Road, and in both Juniata Township and in Cambria County the highway was closed in both directions from Route 22 to the Blair County Line in Cresson Township.