Record cold means power outage for 7K ComEd customers and burst pipes in Chicago

SHARE Record cold means power outage for 7K ComEd customers and burst pipes in Chicago
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A ComEd employee works on a power line. | ComEd

The brutal cold snap that hit Chicago starting Tuesday night left thousands without power, while burst pipes left some city residents without water

More than 7,000 ComEd customers had no electricity as of Wednesday morning, while record-low temperatures also caused eight water main breaks across the city by noon.

A total of 7,256 outages were reported as of 11:15 a.m., according to ComEd’s power outage map. Of those, 2,992 were in Cook County and fewer than five were in Chicago.

Lake County was reporting 1,327 outages, while DeKalb County had 624, Kankakee County had 417, Will County had 272 and McHenry County had 143, ComEd said.

More than 500 ComEd and contractor crews have been working through the night and had already restored service to more than 42,000 customers by 10:30 a.m., according to a statement from the utility company.

ComEd has deployed warming buses in the Gresham neighborhood and south suburban Robbins, and has additional buses on standby for other affected customers, the company said.

“The extreme cold can create very challenging conditions for customers and our crews, who are working around the clock to restore service,” ComEd President and Chief Operating Officer Terence R. Donnelly said in the statement. “We strongly recommend that our customers take whatever precautions are necessary to stay safe.”

Meanwhile, Chicago’s Water Management Department had confirmed seven instances of frozen water lines, Commissioner Randy Connor said Wednesday. The department had logged 62 calls from residents who were without water amid the freezing temperatures.

The situation was the worst since 2014, when a longer period of slightly warmer but still-below zero temperatures caused main breaks across the city. With temperatures forecast to rise into the 40s by the weekend, Wednesday’s sudden, and relatively brief cold snap will likely have less effect on the system than a sustained period of sub-zero temperatures, as it takes some time for freezing temperatures at the surface to reach pipes underground.

“Every situation is different, but this one makes it a little more difficult to work in for our employees,” he said. “When you go in, you expose more pipes, which can create more issues, so you have to get in and work quickly.”

The department is following staffing protocols for “extreme weather,” by pulling construction crews into repair and inspection duties, putting some 600 workers on the street, Connor said. However, those crews can do little to help residents with frozen pipes unless the problem is on the city-owned side of the property line.

Connor urged residents to quickly report any water bubbling up from the ground — a sign of a broken main — by calling 311 immediately. He also offered tips to avoid frozen pipes, such as opening faucets to allow a trickle from the tap that will keep water moving. If pipes become frozen, Connor advised using a blow dryer or heating pad to thaw them, rather than an open flame. Moving warm air through crawl spaces and other chilly areas where pipes are exposed also is important, but Connor cautioned against using space heaters.

Contributing: Andy Grimm

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