CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — FirstEnergy officials expect most, if not all, Mon Power customers to have restored power by the end of the day Tuesday.
As heavy storms passed through central and north central West Virginia Monday night, as many as 11,200 Mon Power customers were without service.
Todd Meyers, external communications for FirstEnergy Corporation, says scattered outages continue to leave over 2,500 residents without power Monday. Customers in the harder hit areas of Wirt, Wetzel and Wood counties may not have power restored until sometime Wednesday.
“And when I say we have scattered outages, it means we have lots of outages. The largest of those outages only has about 100 customers on it,” he said. “There’s lots of work to do, and we’ll be working through the day with crews to be able to do that.”
Weekend storms through central West Virginia left upward of 30,000 customers without power, which First Energy crews worked into late Sunday to restore.
Combined crews from FirstEnergy’s other subsidiaries in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland accounted for about 250 linemen working and almost 600 total individuals working to restore power throughout the state.
Severe thunderstorms are nothing out of the ordinary for West Virginia at this time of the year, so Meyers said crews were ready to be dispatched.
In fact, FirstEnergy has its own weather team to watch for storm activity and predict their arrival time and severity.
“By early afternoon yesterday, we actually had a very detailed weather forecast that showed these storms coming off the Great Lakes,” Meyers said. “On the map it showed us when the lines would be hitting different areas and about how high the wind speeds would be.”
When severe storms hit, Meyers said FirstEnergy has a very detailed plan for proper protocol.
“What we do is we go out to the largest number of customers,” he said. “Whatever outage is causing the largest amount of customers to be offline, that’s how we fix things. We try to get the biggest outages first and then down the smallest ones.”
One method of shortening response time has been to prevent significant damage from occurring. Crews have been able to do so by trimming trees along utility lines.
In 2017 alone, FirstEnergy spent $72 million on tree trimming along nearly 5,000 miles of transmission lines and smaller distribution lines.
“Most of our storm damage is caused by trees, and West Virginia is blessed with lots of trees,” Meyers said. “We can see that we have far fewer outages on the lines that have been trimmed that way, and that when we have outages we get the power back on more quickly. So it’s making a difference.”
FirstEnergy has also utilized an increasingly good use of aerial patrols previously used only for large transmission lines. Meyers says that’s only the beginning of using aerial technology to expedite restored power. The next step could be drone technology.
“There’s a potential down the road that we may be able to even cut down on some of the foot patrol by having these drones go out. There’s a whole new frontier out there that we may be able to utilize in the not-too-distant future.”
Meyers said severe storms are expected both tonight and Friday for most of FirstEnergy’s service area in West Virginia.