The hits kept on coming. Twice this summer, derechos have hit areas served by the Exelon family of companies. In case you don’t know what a derecho is, it’s a long-lived band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. To be classified as a derecho, the storm must cause damage for more than 240 miles and include wind gusts of at least 58 mph.
On June 3, a derecho left a trail of destruction across southeastern Pennsylvania, impacting service to more than 450,000 of PECO’s 1.6 million electric customers. This derecho was large and powerful -- traveling 254 miles from near Erie to the coastline, with speeds measuring as high as 83 mph.
Not only did the derecho uproot and topple trees, destroying the poles and wires supporting power to hundreds of thousands of customers, but the related thunderstorms caused even more damage. With a rolling cluster of storms across the region, the team was challenged to identify and continually reprioritize restoration work. The tree damage was so severe that in some cases, multiple crews were required to restore service to only a handful of customers.
Over the course of six days, PECO employees, along with more than 3,000 additional field employees and contractors, including 500 from other Exelon utilities, worked tirelessly until power was restored to every last customer. The storm required one of the largest contingencies of mutual assistance ever assembled at PECO.
“Being without power can be incredibly impactful, and that is only magnified during a pandemic,” said John McDonald, PECO SVP and COO. “PECO crews worked around the clock through treacherous conditions left in the wake of the storm to get the lights back on for our customers. We’re also so appreciative of our Exelon sister utilities for supporting our restoration efforts following one of the most damaging storms in our company’s history.”
Watch as crews battle Mother Nature in this short video
Derecho Hits Chicago Hard
Just a few weeks later, on August 10, a powerful derecho left a path of destruction from South Dakota to Ohio. That’s more than 770 miles! The storm stayed together for 14 hours and had wind gusts clocked as high as 95 mph. The storm brought intense lightning, hail as big as golf balls and more than 10 tornadoes.
“This was a storm of historical proportion, both meteorologically and in its impact on our system,” said Terry Donnelly, president and COO of ComEd. “In many hard-hit areas, we are not repairing the system, we’re rebuilding it. There are instances where the damage would take weeks to repair under normal circumstances. We’re getting it done in days. Our redoubled efforts have reduced the amount of time our customers are out of power.”
Due to the storm’s severity, more than 800,000 customers lost power. The great work of more than 1,900 personnel from ComEd and sister utilities led to the fastest restoration in ComEd’s history. Customers also benefitted from the smart grid investments that ComEd has been making since 2012, not only helped with quicker restoration, but enabled the utility to reroute power around problem areas, helping to avoid 700,000 additional interruptions in service.