A co-op presentation by PECO and a Haverford Township commissioner to help residents understand the how Hurricane Irene affected the township was given at Chestnutwold Elementary School this past Tuesday night.
Eight stations were set up by PECO in the school’s gymnasium that explained how the company responded to the storm, which left an estimated 9,600 people without power in the township.
Residents freely visited each station that was manned by a PECO representative who explained what the station is about and to answer any questions.
PECO Communications Director Karen Muldoon Geus told the Haverford-Havertown Patch that the power company took three days to prepare for what is said to be one of the three biggest storms in PECO’s history.
In part of the preparation, Geus said that PECO spoke to state, county and township officials on how to organize for Hurricane Irene.
Part of that pre-emptive strike by PECO was dealing with trees, where Jeff Watson, senior project manager for vegetation management, said that PECO removed tree limbs near power lines to prevent outages.
Another way PECO prepared for the storm was to have about 4,000 workers, with many from different states, on the ground to deal with repairs, Geus stated.
But despite the preparations of PECO and government officials, it was still a difficult storm to deal with, Geus said. The first 24 hours of the Aug. 27 to 28 storm saw heavy rains and up to 75-mph winds.
“(The work crews) worked in extreme weather conditions,” she said. “A storm of this nature is so unpredictable.”
The heavy August rains already saturated the grounds, so by the time Hurricane Irene hit with its own rains and soften the grounds even more, a , said Geus.
The two-hour presentation brought in about 50 residents, said 4th Ward Commissioner Dan Siegel, who helped coordinate the event with PECO.
One of the residents, such as Marc Alch of the Marilyn Park section of Havertown, said that he was there to find out from PECO why he did not have power for four and half days while his neighbors across the street had no problems.
Haverford Township Manager Larry Gentile called the night’s event “a great opportunity” for residents to hear from PECO what takes place when responding to a storm like Hurricane Irene.
But a few thought there would be a public forum between the commissioners, PECO and residents where the company would be asked questions.
Board of Commissioners Vice President and 1st Ward Commissioner Steve D'Emilio said he was surprised when he walked into the gymnasium and saw PECO’s displays at each station (which can be viewed as a PDF), adding that he expected a town hall-style meeting where residents would go to a podium and ask questions to PECO.
“This to me is a dog-and-pony show,” D’Emilio told Patch about the PECO presentation.
One of the issues that D’Emilio said he would have liked PECO explain to him and the residents if there was a televised town hall-style meeting that was how a live wire near a metal fence was left unchecked by PECO for 24 hours. This is the same incident that he mentioned before during a where the board of commissioners addressed their concerns with what they called was PECO's lack of communications.
In response to this incident, Geus only explained that when live wires come down, PECO receives a call and orders “wire sitters” to investigate the area and make sure no one goes near the wire until the power is cut. by PECO after the same press conference.
But Siegel said that D’Emilio’s ideal meeting between residents, the commissioners and PECO would be counterproductive.
“That was not how it was planned or billed,” he said. “I and PECO didn’t want a forum where people would vent their frustrations to PECO.
“I don’t think you get anywhere if you are simply venting,” he added. “For people to vent it won’t create a dialogue between two groups.”
Among residents were Haverford Township officials in addition to Siegel, D’Emilio and Gentile, such as zoning board chairman Robert Kane, board of commissioners president and 9th Ward Commissioner William Wechsler, as well as commissioners Mario Oliva and Jeff Heilmann, including Haverford Township Civic Council president Chris Whiting.
Next week PECO will have the same presentation at 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Chestnutwold Elementary School.