PECO Helps Niagara Mohawk Restore Power after Ice Storm
A sudden ice storm in the Watertown, N.Y., area turned freezing rain into layers of ice, snapping trees and power lines throughout the area, knocking out power to 100,000 residents. When Niagara Mohawk crews began trying to restore power, they found that power was not the only thing that had been knocked out by the storm. Communications options were also extremely limited.
Niagara Mohawk enrolled the help of line crews from PECO, its neighboring utility to the south, and technicians from Ericsson. When these crews arrived in Upstate New York to help Niagara Mohawk, they found almost nothing working. “No telephones, no mobile phones and no pagers,” said John Sackett, an Ericsson technician. “The radio stations were off the air. Communications were extremely limited.”
PECO`s portable radio tower, single-site repeater and radios, which are part of its mobile communications system, provided the communications link necessary for Niagara Mohawk to restore service. The radios helped Niagara Mohawk guide its own workers, as well as crews from as many as 50 other utilities who assisted in the recovery efforts, to locations where poles and lines had to be replaced.
According to Tim Sage, Ericsson Private Radio Systems` area service manager in Valley Forge, Pa., without the portab this type. In this case, however, most private and commercial systems were down. If you wanted to dispatch someone in the field, you couldn`t reach them on a phone or radio,” he said. PECO`s portable system allowed Niagara Mohawk to avoid sending trucks out to deliver messages and instructions in person to the crews in the field, he said.
Ericsson and PECO personnel erected the portable tower on high terrain and raised it to its maximum height of 90 feet. Working off power supplied by gasoline generators, the portable communications site provided coverage within a 15-mile radius in the middle of the most heavily affected area.
“Initially, the purpose of the portable site was to provide PECO with communications locally during emergency situations,” Sage said. “But now it has become a tool in supporting neighboring utilities when severe power outages occur in other areas.”