Thousands, many in the A-K Valley, still waiting for electricity after brutal wind storm
There were more than 2,800 West Penn Power customers who remained without power Wednesday night — and some of them might have to wait until Saturday before their electricity is restored.
As of 9:45 p.m. areas where customers still didn’t have power included Lower Burrell, Harrison, Leechburg, Ford City, Cranberry, New Castle and surrounding areas.
At the hour, Duquesne Light reported 106 outages with 1,657 customers affected. Those affected are in Churchill, Wilkinsburg, McKees Rocks, Dormont and surrounding areas.
For Jim Radeshak of Kimball Avenue, Arnold, the lights came back on around noon Wednesday. His house and others on his block had been without power since about 9 p.m. Sunday. That’s when high winds took down a huge tree in the front yard of a neighbor’s house, shearing off two utility poles and damaging others.
“The tree fell over and knocked out power to everyone here, the whole block,” Radeshak said. “With the weather being cold, I think most people went to the Quality Inn. Now, we’re just trying to heat up the houses again.”
He’ll eat the cost of the hotel room without complaint.
“It’s not worth making an insurance claim on,” Radeshak said. “We were lucky enough to not lose any food or anything.”
Harrison resident Joe Vertosick said losing his power was an inconvenience, but he was one of the lucky ones who were only in the dark for about a day or so.
“I know what they were up against,” he said of the power companies.
Vertosick said he has concerns for some of the elderly people in his area who are still without power.
The West Penn Power website showed about 20 people still remained without power Wednesday in the area of Burtner Road.
“It would be nice if people would keep their trees trimmed,” he said, concerned that falling trees were responsible for many of the outages.
On Wednesday afternoon, West Penn Power had restored power to all but 5,600 customers, according to spokesman Todd Meyers.
The utility serves people in parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Butler and Washington counties.
The region’s other provider, Duquesne Light, said there were about 3,500 customers who remained without power Wednesday afternoon.
Both companies said they’ve been working around-the-clock to restore service, but Meyers said this particular storm posed a unique challenge for power companies.
“I’m surprised we’ve gotten as many customers back on as quickly as we have,” Meyers said.
He said nobody at West Penn Power could remember a wind storm like this one.
“This one just blew all day. All day Sunday and much of the day on Monday,” Meyers said. “That’s very brutal, and that’s what did so much tree damage.”
West Penn Power’s parent company, First Energy, said more than 1 million of its customers were without power because of the storm. Of those, 160,000 were West Penn Power customers, Meyers said.
The storm impacted a wide swath of the country. So utility companies elsewhere were tied up dealing with their own issues and couldn’t contribute the mutual aid they normally provide, Meyers said.
“That said, we have a lot of contractors out there now, helping (out),” he said. “We’re getting more (Wednesday) .”
Those still without power are among the toughest to restore. The 5,600 customers still in the dark were in 1,200 outage areas, and each area takes hours of work to fix.
“We still have to put up more than 130 utility poles,” Meyers said. “We have 150 spans of wire down. There is an enormous amount of work to do. That’s what takes so long.”
He called it a “very costly storm,” but couldn’t put a dollar amount on the damage caused.
“That will be tallied up later. (We’ll) just keep on working until the last customer is restored,” Meyers said.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .