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Editorial: Are electric companies aware winter is coming?

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, 4:33 p.m.

It seems like just yesterday that we were saying that there were too many power outages in Southwestern Pennsylvania and someone ought to pay attention to it.

Actually it wasn’t yesterday. It was August , when the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said power outages had gone up 150 percent in just one year. Of those 50 statewide incidents, 34 percent were felt by West Penn Power or Duquesne Light customers.

And now it’s happening again .

After last week’s blast of snow and sleet, trees toppled and lines fell and more than 50,000 people lost their electricity. Some were restored Friday but others lingered into the weekend. And Monday. The latest message from West Penn said the last homes will be lit up again by 10 p.m. Tuesday, while Central Electric Cooperative users in Armstrong and Butler counties will remain powerless into Wednesday as they wait for West Penn Power to repair damaged substations.

Come on.

Yes, the storm was unseasonably early. But still, we knew winter was coming, right?

Okay, fine. Snow and ice happen. We can’t plan for everything. Act of God and all that.

But the PUC report shows that the state wants more investment in the infrastructure of power distribution, and that more time and attention has to be paid to maintaining what’s already there.

That shouldn’t be hard to see, even in the dark, when it is taking a massive effort of more than 500 additional lineman and others to work on restoring power. Those are spread across the six states in West Penn Power’s parent company, First Energy, holdings hit by the storm. All told, 248,000 customers were left powerless and 203,000 have been restored .

Let’s remember that is more than 248,000 people. That’s 248,000 electric bills, each of which could mean a family of moms, dads, kids and grandparents. Talking about “customers” is understandable for the utility companies, but it has a natural way of reducing every four or five people hit to just the one name on the envelope.

Hopefully, everyone will have lights again by Thanksgiving morning. Hopefully, everyone will get to watch the Macy’s parade and the holiday meal won’t be ruined by non-functioning stoves and no one will get food poisoning because the refrigerator didn’t work.

And hopefully, the utility companies realize that winter doesn’t even start for another 30 days, and that there will be three months of more snow and ice and wind and rain behind that. Maybe it’s too late to replace that infrastructure and maintain the lines this year.

But brace yourself for next year, electric companies. Winter will be coming. Again.

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