Snowy roads make outages linger

    An estimated 60,000 people are still without power in the Philadelphia region after yesterday’s blizzard caused power lines to sag and tree limbs to snap.

    An estimated 60,000 people are still without power in the Philadelphia region after yesterday’s blizzard caused power lines to sag and tree limbs to snap. [audio:100211MPPOWER.mp3]

    With many residents without electricity or safe access to roads, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has launched emergency patrols to help those in need.

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    Bucks County is hardest hit by outages, with nearly 19,000 PECO customers still waiting for power.

    Rendell has called on the Pennsylvania National Guard to help these struggling areas. He calls it the Presence Patrol Initiative, a storm relief effort that was successfully piloted in Pittsburgh.

    General Jessica Wright says 1,500 guard members will patrol areas statewide to provide residents with food, blankets, water and most important, transportation.

    Wright: “Those that are in the most need get the fastest response. Because it’s a matter of taking those to dialysis that need to go to dialysis, or those that need to get to an emergency room before it’s a matter of taking somebody to a local grocery store. “

    For information on a local presence patrol team in your area, contact your local county emergency management department.

    PECO says it will take several days before power is fully restored to all customers.

    Spokesman Fred Maher says PECO crews have struggled to reach downed lines at the end of snowy side roads.

    Maher: The roads are difficult to traverse, it’s cold out, it’s still got some winds kicking out there. We’ve had challenges where we can’t even get down certain streets because the plows haven’t gotten in there yet.”

    He said the situation is getting better as the day progresses.

    Chester County was also hit hard by outages.    Dozens of families whose homes were without power chose to take refuge briefly at a school gym in Westtown that was turned into an emergency shelter with cots, blankets and heat.

    Chester County Emergency Services Director Ed Atkins said:  We opened up Stetson Middle  School, had about 35 people spend the night with us. Happily they’re all either back in their own residence now or one or two of them will spend a couple days in a hotel until PECO gets the power back on.

    Atkins says – this was the largest winter shelter operation to be put in place in Chester County within the last 13 years.

    For more information on the Presence Patrols, residents should call the appropriate number:

    Bucks County – 215-340-8700
    Montgomery County – 610-631-6500
    Chester County – 610-344-5000
    Delaware County – 610-565-8700
    Philadelphia County – 215-686-2106

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