Process changes prepare ComEd to recover quickly from disastrous storm and flood.
Greg Kiraly is ComEd vice president of Distribution System Operations, and served as one of the company’s primary emergency response directors during the August 2007 storm. ComEd is based in Chicago and provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across Northern Illinois.
The most severe storm of the last 10 years hit the Chicago area on Aug. 23 and 24, 2007. A combination of major flooding, 80,000 lightning strikes, and winds up to 100 miles per hour left 634,000 of Commonwealth Edison’s 3.8 million customers without power. Six counties were declared federal disaster areas.
“The storm system was so massive it took 12 hours to clear our territory and locked out [or tripped] 400 main feeder circuits,” says ComEd President and Chief Operating Officer J. Barry Mitchell. “At one point, a tornado warning even required us to evacuate our central command center.”
Despite the storm’s severity, ComEd restored power to 75 percent of affected customers within one day. Further, 90 percent were restored within two days, and all were back online five days after the outage began.
Credit for this fast response extended throughout the company. Less apparent to customers were the significant procedural enhancements ComEd developed long before the storm of the decade appeared on weather radars.
ComEd’s effort to improve storm-response procedures occurred in two stages. The first began three years ago when ComEd undertook significant changes to reduce the duration of storm-related outages. Second, a sizable storm in October 2006 left the utility better prepared to respond when an even larger storm arrived only 10 months later.