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Health, Science & Tech

Restoring Power in Pennsylvania Could Take All Week

Power companies are updating their websites with power outage maps, and eastern Pennsylvania is covered with outage dots. The state Public Utility Commission reports some 385,400 Pennsylvania homes are without electricity as of 4:00 PM Monday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Electric utilities say getting everybody back on the grid again could take all week. Scott Surgeoner, a spokesman for First Energy, which owns Met Ed and Penelec, says storm damage crews are facing a huge task. "Replace probably more than 200 poles, more than 400 spans of wire that have come down," said Surgeoner. "There are places in our area … where we have not been able to assess the damage yet due to downed trees across the road, and/or flooding."

In the northeast portion of Pennsylvania, Met-Ed has taken to the skies to assess the areas around Easton and Stroudsburg by helicopter, because flooding and downed trees block the roads. First Energy says it doesn't know when it will be able to restore power for its customers.

PPL says it will take three to five days to restore power for its hardest-hit areas around Lehigh Valley, Lancaster, and Harrisburg. Before the storm, the utility arranged to bring extra crew members from another company it owns in Kentucky, as well as from other companies in Indiana and Ohio, to help tend to storm damage. PPL spokesman Kurt Blumenau says the extra help will speed the power restoration process. "No other utility in the mid-Atlantic region was able to provide the mutual assistance because everyone had their hands full," said Blumenau. "So we were fortunate that our sister company, if you will, was able to lend us a hand."