Ever wonder what it's like behind the scenes, to bring power back to more than 850,000 customers after a destructive storm? Chicago's ComEd crews went to extraordinary lengths, in recent days, to restore electricity to customers affected by last week's storm. For example:
- By train: Unable to reach damaged equipment to make necessary repairs at an Abbott Labs facility between Lake Bluff and Waukegan on July 17, ComEd crews coordinated with the Canadian Pacific Railroad, accessing rail cars to ferry ComEd crews three miles into the swamp-like, densely vegetated area to replace eight broken utility poles (1,275 pounds. each) and six spans of power lines (each span of wire runs up to 150 feet).
- By boat: To restore service to customers on Cedar Island in Pistakee Lake on July 16, 14 ComEd crew members rented a boat and borrowed an additional boat from a company employee to transport crews and float three utility poles and a transformer to the repair site. The crew dug holes to install the poles by hand, and repaired three spans of wire, to restore service to area customers.
- And in a 100-foot ravine: To repair a transformer 100 feet deep in a ravine in Lake Bluff late on the night of July 15, ComEd crews set up a rope rigging device to extricate the damaged transformer and lower the new equipment down into the secluded, hard-to-reach site.
Getting the system back to normal, nearly 400 crews are deployed today, in the stifling heat, to make temporary repairs more permanent to ensure the system continues to operate normally. To restore power for the more than 850,000 customers affected by the July 15 storm, ComEd's largest-ever storm response team replaced the following materials:
- More than 500,000 feet of power lines (equivalent to the John Hancock building stacked on top of itself more than 300 times);
- Nearly 700 poles (equivalent to more than 20 lengths of the Trump Tower);
- Nearly 600 distribution transformers; and,
- More than 100,000 pieces of damaged equipment, such as utility pole cross-arms and braces, connectors (that connect power lines to a pole or to a transformer), splices (used to connect two pieces of wire together to make a continuous circuit), switches (equipment used to help control the voltage and conduct the electricity), fuses and braces.
ComEd fielded approximately 1.2 million calls in the last week, at its customer care call center. The utility typically handles nine million calls per year.
To support its customers and restore service as quickly and as safely as possible, ComEd deployed more than 1,000 crews, at peak, including support teams from utilities in 14 states who traveled more than 8,000 miles.
Last week's storm brought heavy rain, 18,000 lightning strikes and wind gusts of 80 mph and toppled trees, snapped hundreds of utility poles and brought down miles of power lines. Comparable storms in terms of wind speed and customer impact are the hurricane storms that hit the U.S. coasts. Restoration times in those storms ranged from seven to 10 days.