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The Grid

Willis Tower Power Restored


In May, Chicago’s Willis Tower (die-hard Chicagoans still call it the Sears Tower) lost power for the first time in its 47-year history after the fourth wettest four-day period ever (eight inches of rain fell in just four days).

The tower, which is the second tallest in North America, is not just an iconic building where more than 1.7 million tourists visit the Skydeck every year -- it’s also home to more than 100 businesses and is a broadcast point for Chicago’s main radio and television stations. Around 2 a.m. on May 18, our ComEd colleagues learned the flooding had taken out the substation serving the 110-story Willis Tower.

Immediately, a ComEd employees began to mobilize. Ultimately 318 employees developed a plan to pump out the water and safely restore electricity, working with Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Willis Tower management and the Chicago Fire Department.

In addition to the water-logged substation in the basement, the team had to check equipment throughout the building – no small feat without power to elevators or emergency stairwell lights.  Undaunted, 15 brave employees climbed 104 floors – nearly a quarter of a mile straight up -- while carrying heavy gear in sweltering heat to make sure everything was working properly. Due to the round-the-clock- work by the ComEd team, power was restored on May 25.

“It just goes to show the lengths our employees will go to bring our customers back,” said Terry Donnelly, ComEd President and COO. “This effort required tight team turnovers, with crews working around the clock, and ongoing communication with various agencies and organizations throughout the process. It was a huge team effort.”

You can see the team in action in this short video.