August 29, 2011 — As President Barack Obama warned that full recovery from Hurricane Irene’s after-effects would take time, utilities, field crews and plant operators worked to restore power to East Coast residents.
Some 5.5 million homes and business were still without power from North Carolina to Maine, the Department of Energy estimated, and utilities said it could take days to restore electricity in more accessible areas, or up to weeks in the hardest-hit regions.
As many as 6 million customers were cut off from electricity following the storm that was Hurricane Irene, and since the storm dissipated, only a small portion of those customers have reportedly had their power restored.
At least 21 people died in the U.S. in addition to three who died in the Dominican Republic and one in Puerto Rico when the storm was still in the Caribbean.
Hurricane Irene became a tropical storm somewhere near the U.S.-Canadian border by late August 28, as its wind speeds slowed to 50 miles per hour.
Rhode Island reportedly had the largest percentage of its population cut off from power/ About 275,000 people were affected by the blackouts in that state.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Virginia, where the outages were greatest in number, each had more than 600,000 customers without power by August 29.
New York had some 939,000 people living in the dark, and about 4,000 of those had their power restored by that same day. Many utilities with service areas in Irene’s path are estimating that power restoration could take up to a full week or longer.
Utilities in Vermont, where flooding has become severe and is hampering the recovery effort, said it is still too early to say how extensive the damage is. About 50,000 people have been reported as having no power in Vermont.
FirstEnergy reported thousands of downed power lines in the Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey areas, with many going unreported as of yet. FirstEnergy’s main utilities, Jersey Central Power and Light and Metropolitan Edison, reported more than 850,000 outage-struck consumers.
The PJM Interconnection is working with its constituent companies to restore power to some two million customers dealing with blackouts in the PJM service territory. At the storm’s height, an estimated three million customers were without power, primarily in Virginia, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Although some generating plants were impacted by the hurricane, PJM had enough generation capacity. The restoration process is expected to be lengthy due to the amount of distribution damage, flooding of substations and downed lines.
One nuclear power reactor at Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs facility in Maryland remained shut after being struck by wind-blown debris August 28, but the company said the plant was safe.
Other nuclear plants that cut some generation were preparing to resume normal operations, while Exelon Corp’s Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey, which supplies up to 600,000 homes, remained offline.