Massive Power Outages Expected with Northeast Snowstorm

October 29, 2011; 5:07 AM ET
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A tree limb downed by heavy snow is pictured with Wall Street protesters in City Park in Denver on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011. The heavy, wet snow falling on trees still full of leaves resulted in power outages for more than 100,000 people. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

People across the Northeast better start getting their cell phones charged, batteries and flashlights ready and generators set to go if they have them.

This weekend's "crushing", early-season snowstorm threatens to create massive power outages from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York into New England.

The snow will be extremely heavy and wet in nature, and unfortunately, most of the trees in the Northeast are still full of leaves. As evidenced by the snowstorm that cut power to more than 100,000 people in Denver earlier this week, this combination spells a nightmare for residents.

"Once we get about 3 inches of heavy, wet snow, when you still have leaves on the trees, branches can start breaking, and the tree can even fall down," said Todd Meyers, spokesman for West Penn Power.

The snow will be more than capable of snapping large tree limbs. With the Northeast having been hit hard by Irene and other significant storm systems over the past couple of months, many trees are already in weak condition and can easily be taken down.

If the heavy, wet snow weren't enough, parts of New England will also have to face high winds, adding even more stress to the trees. In some areas, the winds along will be strong enough to take down trees and power lines.

Needless to say, there will be a great deal of people who will lose power this weekend. However, be rest assured that local power companies are working hard to prepare for this snowstorm and will be highly dedicated to restoring power to their customers.

"People need to be patient, though," said Meyers. "It will be difficult for crews to travel on the roads for awhile."

It's also important for people to plan ahead. Sandra Ahearn, spokesperson for Western Massachusetts Electric Company, urges people to plan ahead said, "We encourage customers to make sure they have batteries... that their cell phones are fully charged... computers... anything they will need. If they use a generator, make sure it's installed by a licensed electrician and that it is only used outside."

Generators that are not properly installed or are placed indoors can create a risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

A look at what power companies are doing to prepare state by state:

Connecticut

Connecticut Light & Power Company (CLP) provides power services for the majority of the state and has 17,000 miles of overhead lines, according to spokesman Mitch Gross.

"Connecticut is a state that is one of the most heavily-wooded in the country," Gross explained. "It's also a state that still has most of its leaves on its trees. And we have a forecast for heavy, wet snow and high winds."

Gross continued, "Irene was just here and gone and caused extensive tree damage. This system has the potential to do the same thing."

Gross said that CLP has all of its more than 200 line crews on call and is watching the forecast.

Massachusetts

"We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said Western Massachusetts Electric Company spokesperson Sandra Ahearn. "We are very concerned about this storm with the leaf canopy still being in place."

Ahearn said that Western Massachusetts Electric Company has placed all 35 line crews on call and secured an additional 26 contractor tree crews. "We will evaluate if additional contract crews are needed once the storm gets closer."

Western Massachusetts Electric Company services 210,000 customers in 59 towns in the western part of the state.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland

FirstEnergy Corp. is comprised of 10 electric utility companies that service a large portion of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and western Maryland.

West Penn Power is one of the companies associated with FirstEnergy. Its spokesman, Todd Meyers, said, "[FirstEnergy] is sending crews from Ohio across into New Jersey, Reading... areas that will be hardest hit. We'll position them in central PA and see what will happen with the storm. They can head east and south from there."

Meyers said that full crews of linemen are available to start working as soon as the storm hits.

Hospitals, safety institutions and police stations will be the first to be serviced, then the larger lines that serve the highest number of customers.

Meyers stressed that people should never touch downed wires and stay well clear, as they could still be electrified. He also instructed customers who see a downed wire or have an outage to call 1-800-255-3443.

New York

A spokesman from Con Edison, which provides power to New York City and Westchester, told AccuWeather.com Friday that the company is monitoring the storm. "Crews are well aware of it. We'll be ready for anything that comes," he said.

Snow is not expected to be as heavy in New York City as in areas farther north through the Hudson Valley.

This page will be updated with information for other states as AccuWeather.com recieves feedback from more power companies.

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