ComEd (Chicago, Illinois) officials today described to the Illinois Commerce Commission the company's restoration efforts after devastating storms ripped through the ComEd service territory Aug. 23. In what company officials called one of its best storm restoration performances ever, the utility re-established service to approximately 634,000 customers within five days, bringing back 75 percent of those affected within one day, and 90 percent within 48 hours.

"This enormous effort was a great demonstration of our commitment to customers," said ComEd President and COO Barry Mitchell. "Thousands of employees from throughout the company were engaged, working 16-hours shifts to restore service. On top of that, we brought in every available resource from as far away as Texas and Pennsylvania. It's a credit to everyone at ComEd that we were able to bring back power to so many so quickly."

North suburban communities were the hardest hit. Flooding, extensive wind and lightning damage to trees and property and flooded streets challenged field crews. The storms, the most severe weather event to strike ComEd since a March 1998 ice storm interrupted service to 865,000 customers, featured:

  • More than 80,000 lightning strokes, or six-and-a-half times the number occurring in a typical storm event
  • More than 5,000 downed trees
  • Hurricane-force winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour

Nearly 1,000 crews supported the storm restoration, representing 4,100 ComEd employees, contractors and outside utility workers. Among the utilities providing assistance were First Energy of Akron, OH, Houston Power and Light, Kansas City Power and Light and PECO Energy of Philadelphia, among other companies. Together, field crews repaired or replaced:

  • 109 miles of wire and cable during the initial restoration: equivalent in length to the approximate distance between Chicago and Milwaukee
  • 416 poles: end to end these poles would extend 2.5 miles, or 24 city blocks
  • 513 transformers

The magnitude of the storm is also illustrated by the 419,000 customer inquiries handled in the ComEd call center during the restoration's five days.

"Our commitment to customers meant our employees were unexpectedly called away from their families for an extended period," Mitchell said. "We recognize the inconvenience outages cause our customers, and we appreciate their patience during this process. We also are thankful for their many kind words of support and thanks."

The company is presently engaged in the in-depth 'lessons learned' process it routinely initiates following storm events to identify opportunities for enhancing storm response procedures. The lessons-learned process examines everything from how fieldwork is conducted, to administrative practices and improving coordination with units of government and other third parties.