• Written by Kelly White

Palos Hills mayor outraged with ComEd response to power outage

“Unacceptable’’ was one of the choice words used by Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett in describing ComEd’s reaction to thousands of power outages caused by two powerful storms that raged into the area on June 30.

“In all my years as mayor, I have never seen such a dysfunctional company as ComEd,” Bennett said at last Thursday’s board meeting following four days of dealing with headaches caused by the storm. “It’s unacceptable. And, I hate to apologize because I have absolutely no control over the situation, but I am sorry for what our residents have gone through.”
The majority of the city sat without power from June 30 until last Thursday morning. More than 50 percent, totaling 3,500 homes in the Palos Hills community, were without power after the storm, along with five of the city’s eight sanitary sewer stations, Bennett said.
Public works crews responded immediately and concentrated on re-establishing power to their pumping station and opening streets and blocked storm inlets. The crews were able to get two pumping stations back on line and use portable generators to provide emergency use to three pumping stations until power was re-established at 10 a.m. last Thursday.
“Certain areas of our city have not been recovered until about an hour ago,” Bennett said at the meeting.
Southwest Highway and the area surrounding 82nd and Eleanor avenues in Palos Hills – 185 homes -- were without power for at least four days.
“Southwest Highway is a major road even though ComEd may not be aware of it,” Bennett said. “And, that road sat for almost 48 hours. It does not only affect our residents, it has affected all citizens throughout the southwest area that use Southwest Highway on a regular basis. And, I want to find out why it has taken so long for them to restore power.”
ComEd officials said that the process of the repairs in that area took extra time.
There were eight poles down along Southwest Highway, running from 107th Street to 111th Street, according to Com Ed representative Elizabeth Keating.
“These poles take some time to repair,” she said, “Some of the poles needed to be de-energized before all of them could be taken out then put back up in a row again and restrung.”
The poles were double-circuit poles containing 12,000 voltages of energy running along the first string and 4,000 voltages running along the second string, she said.
“It was a safety concern why Southwest Highway remained closed during the replacement and restringing of these poles,” Keating said, “Our crews considered possibly keeping only one lane open during the repair, however, decided against it due to the heavy traffic and safety concerns.”
The delayed power outage in the area surrounding 82nd Avenue and Eleanor Avenue was more bad luck than anything else, Com Ed officials said. Keating said the area experienced a nested outage once the power was resumed to Palos Hills with a circuit down. ComEd crews went out and worked through the night last Thursday night to have the power up and running by the following Friday morning.
The storms left a reported 2.56 inches of rain within the city, with wind gusts ranging between 60 to 80 mph. Plaos Hills wasn’t along with its power miseries. In its wake, 400,000 homes in the Chicago area were left without power.
“[Public Works Commissioner] Dave Weakley has been working nonstop,” Bennett said, “Both our public works and police department immediately began clearing the streets from any tree branches and debris from the storm, along with helping residents.”
“Throughout the community, hundreds of trees were damaged or blown over and dozens of streets were blocked with trees or broken tree branches,” Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) said on behalf of the public works department.
On July 2, crews started the process of clearing the city roadways of debris with chipper crews moving through the entire community chipping storm damaged branches that residents had placed along the roadways.
At approximately 2 a.m., the ComEd substation located at 103rd Street and 78th Avenue failed, sending a large portion of the community into darkness again and causing the upper system water pumping station to fail. The power was re-established later that evening; however, the pressure fluctuations caused a water main break on 88th Avenue and 104th Street, rupturing an eight-inch water main. Public works crews were called to clean up and repair the water leak.
“The water main was so badly damaged that crews had to replace eight feet of water main to complete the entire repair,” Williams said.