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PPL, Met Ed learn lessons, make changes from Snowmageddon 2011

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 25 2012 09:16:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 26 2012 09:19:45 AM CDT

PPL has all hands on deck for possible Frankenstorm

Something big is brewing on the weather radar: It's a whopper of a storm that could slam the East Coast next week.

Hurricane Sandy has barreled through Cuba and is now slashing the Bahamas. So far four people have been killed, and forecasters say the super storm has the possibility to be historic in damage.

Local utility organizations say that means all hands are on deck.

"We are going to do everything that we must do between now and Monday to prepare and respond as effectively as we can," said PPL Spokesperson Michael Wood.

He says the company is closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy. All workers are on high alert.

"We've even notified our sister utilities in Kentucky that we'd like some of their personnel, and they're even going to come up in advance and bed here Sunday night."

Forecasters say the brewing storm could be historic, a rare mix of atmospheric and astronomical conditions.

"This is going to move right on up the Eastern seaboard the way it looks right now," explained 69 News Chief Meteorologist Ed Hanna.

What's not clear is where exactly the storm will make landfall. Experts say it could be devastating bringing drenching rains, wind damage, power outages and possibly alter shore-lines.

Here at home at the very least we'll see 2 to 3 inches of rain.

"Worst case scenario there's going to be a lollipop zone where some folks somewhere are going to pick up 6-10 inches of rain with significant winds," said Hanna.

That could mean flooding and widespread outages. The exact thing crews at PPL are prepping for.

"On Monday everyone's focus at PPL electric utilities will be watching the storms impact," said Wood. "Assessing the damage and trying to respond to get people's power back on as quickly as possible."

Operations will be running 24/7 and workers will be on hand for 12-16 hour shifts.

Crews are basically preparing for the worst, with lessons learned from last year's storms. in 2011 Tropical storm Lee, Hurricane Irene and the freak snowstorm that hit October 29th had folks in the dark for days. One year later officials at PPL say they're much more prepared.

"Having man power in place, ready to go is one of the most important things you can do for a major storm," said Wood.

In 2011 the company found out where it needed to make upgrades and what it needed to do better to respond. PPL customer service systems couldn't keep up with the more than one-million phone calls coming in during hurricane Irene and the October snow.

"We've upgraded those systems," explained Wood. "We've added more phone lines, we've increased the capacity of the systems, we've added customer service representatives and we've got a back up service that can handle thousands of calls simultaneously."

PPL also put an extra $12-million toward making sure power lines are clear from trees.

"We know trees cause the most power outages, and if we can get greater line clearance we'll be much better in storms."

Rain could start late Sunday, but forecasters expect the storm to strike Monday and Tuesday. PPL says the best thing you can do is contact them if you lose power by calling 1-800-342-5775 or online here: www.pplelectric.com/outagecenter