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Allegheny's storm story better than Pepco's

February 08, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — After state lawmakers picked apart Pepco on Tuesday for its poor performance during a Jan. 26 snowstorm, other electricity providers — including Allegheny Power — got a friendlier reception.

The House Economic Matters Committee grilled officials from Pepco, which serves Washington, D.C., and nearby suburban Maryland counties.

The hearing was prompted by customers' and legislators' frustrations with Pepco over the time it took to restore power after the storm.

After spending more than an hour grilling Pepco officials, the committee moved on to the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Allegheny officials then spent about five minutes with the committee, which asked few questions.

During an interview afterward, David W. McDonald, Allegheny's vice president for distribution, said that about 19,000 of the utility's 260,000 customers in Maryland lost power.

The first outages were reported at about 3 p.m. Jan. 26.

That day, Hagerstown was blanketed with about 8 inches of snow, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's website.

By 1 a.m. Jan. 27, about 56 percent of those customers had their power restored, McDonald said.

About 80 percent were restored by 1 p.m. Jan. 27, and about 96 percent by 9 p.m. Jan. 27, he said.

The last outage was repaired at 5:45 a.m. Jan. 29.

McDonald said he couldn't contrast Allegheny's experience with comments made by Joseph M. Rigby, Pepco's president, chief executive officer and chairman, who complained of aging equipment and overgrown vegetation that hampered the company's performance.

"I would just tell you from our perspective, we continue to invest in our infrastructure," McDonald said. "We have focused on restoration."

During the hearing, Del. David R. Rudolph, D-Cecil, the committee's vice chairman, asked each provider to specify when it asked for help from outside utility companies.

McDonald said Allegheny and other mid-Atlantic region companies jointly asked utilities in other regions for assistance several hours into the storm.

However, he noted that Allegheny, with its wide coverage area, could call in extra workers from places not badly hit by the storm.

McDonald said after the hearing that Allegheny started planning on Jan. 25 to call in line workers from elsewhere in its coverage area, then did so on the afternoon of Jan. 26. About 80 to 85 of its own workers from other areas helped.

Allegheny also asked for about 120 workers from utilities outside the region to help in Maryland and ended up using about 100 of them.

Timothy M. Croushore, of Allegheny Power's Reliability Performance division, said the company had about 95,000 outages throughout its system.

West Virginia, with about 68,000 outages, was hit the hardest, Croushore said.

Allegheny had more outages this year than during a February 2010 storm, but restored electricity to customers quicker this year, he said.

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