Utility crews were working feverishly to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the eastern U.S. that were still in the dark and cold on Thursday after an ice storm knocked out electricity to more than a million customers, damage one official likened to that from a hurricane.
The Northeast’s second winter storm of the week dumped more than a foot (300 millimeters) of snow in some states on Wednesday, forcing schools, businesses and government offices to close, snarling air travel and sending cars and trucks sliding on slippery roads and highways — an all-too-familiar litany of misery in a winter where the storms seem to be tripping over each other.
What made this one stand out — and caused all those outages — was the thick coating of ice it left on trees and power lines. While the storm has long since cleared out, its effects are expected to linger for days.
“People are going to have to have some patience at this point,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday. The governor issued a disaster emergency proclamation, freeing up state agencies to use all available resources and personnel.
At its height, the storm knocked out power to nearly 849,000 customers in Pennsylvania, most of them in the counties around Philadelphia. Though sizeable, it’s still less than the nearly 1.8 million that were left without power after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
PECO, southeastern Pennsylvania’s dominant utility, warned it could be until the weekend before the lights come back on for all of its more than 431,000 customers without power Thursday morning. FirstEnergy was reporting almost 49,000 customers without power, while PPL was reporting more than 20,000.
In neighboring Maryland, where 76,000 customers were in the dark, power companies gave a restoration estimate of Friday. More than 7,000 New Jersey customers also lacked electricity.
Officials pleaded with people not to use generators or gas grills indoors after 20 to 25 people in the Philadelphia area were taken to hospitals with carbon monoxide poisoning.