Local utility companies are preparing for the worst as Hurricane Sandy is expected to linger over the region early next week causing substantial damage and power outages.
"We are expecting this to be an extended event," said Gary Stockbridge, president for Delmarva Power. "Some of the wind projections we're seeing could create several days where we won't be able to get our folks in the bucket trucks to work."
In short, customers should expect power outages, possibly for extended periods.
Stockbridge said officials are recruiting mutual assistance partners from across the country and Canada to help assist with downed power lines and other emergencies. Stockbridge said they've put out calls for several thousand additional workers, but he said extra workers are in high demand by all utility companies in the Mid-Atlantic region right now. As of Friday afternoon, he said he was unsure how much extra help Delmarva Power will have.
Delaware Electric Cooperative has asked other cooperatives for help in the event it's needed, said Jeremy Tucker, communications manager for the coop.
Hurricane Sandy currently is a category 1 hurricane with winds ranging from 80 to 130 mph. Even if winds decrease, the slow-moving storm is expected to hover over the region, causing concern for flooding, downed trees and other storm damage.
"If our area sustains those kinds of winds, there will be outages," Tucker said. "We're encouraging customers to be prepared for a loss of power over several days."
The coop maintains 7,000 miles of service lines throughout the year, but power lines will be vulnerable to heavy, rain-soaked trees toppling over and falling branches, he said.
Stockbridge said Delmarva Power trims back trees throughout the year but high winds and drenching rains over an extended period are dangerous.
"It really doesn't matter how much tree trimming we've done; if the whole tree goes over, it'll take out the whole line," Stockbridge said. "It's like all the ingredients to a very difficult situation. This could be a very bad mix this time of year and cause significant outages."
Pat Delaney, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of the Delmarva Peninsula, said disaster volunteers are on alert. In the event shelters are opened, Delaney said volunteers would mobilize to serve those locations.
To report power outages:
Delaware Electric Cooperative:
Call 855-332-9090. Live outage information can be found at delaware.coop. Our outage map is also available on mobile devices.
Kent and Sussex counties – 800-898-8045
New Castle County – 800-898-8042 (natural gas emergency, 302-454-0317)
More information at delmarva.com.