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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:55 am

Outages linger; storm rivals '12 derecho

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

About 500 Indiana Michigan Power customers were still without power Tuesday, three days after a severe storm tore through Fort Wayne and Allen County.

About 32,000 residents were left without power Saturday after winds reaching more than 60 mph uprooted trees, knocked down power lines and damaged transformers throughout the county.

By midnight Monday, power was restored to 95 percent of Indiana Michigan Power customers.

The power utility had planned to have power restored to every customer by noon Tuesday, but after the company discovered more extensive storm damage to poles and equipment than it expected, Indiana Michigan Power extended its timetable for power restoration.

Power was expected to be restored to about 98 percent of residents by midnight Tuesday, with full restoration expected no later than 11:59 p.m. today.

Remaining outages are spread throughout the city and are not concentrated in any single area or neighborhood, I&M spokesman Tracy Warner said, noting that crews continued to work throughout the day Tuesday.

To get residents’ power restored, Warner said I&M workers have been joined by crews from power utilities in other parts of the state, as well as from Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio.

"The electric utilities have mutual aid agreements that are a lot like fire departments’. If one needs assistance, the other goes to help," Warner said.

"I&M crews countless times have gone to other areas to help with restoration. These companies and other utilities basically return the favor and come to our assistance when we need it."

Saturday wasn’t the first time a storm caused thousands of residents to lose power for several days. Around the same time in June 2012, a storm known as a derecho ripped through the region, bringing with it winds up to 91 miles per hour. That storm resulted in power outages for about 121,000 Indiana Michigan Power residents.

A severe winter storm later that year also caused outages for about 18,000 Fort Wayne residents and businesses.

The damage caused by Saturday’s storm was similar to that of the 2012 derecho in the number of downed trees and the amount of damaged infrastructure, Warner said, noting that each storm is different in terms of the damage done and the number of man-hours required to do repairs.

"We learn a little bit for every storm that we handle," he said. "One of the things we do each time is to try to best deploy our resources and assess damage immediately after a storm hits to determine where to concentrate resources to restore people’s power."

As they continue to address outages, crews continue to discover additional damage to poles and equipment, Warner said.

So far, workers have replaced 87 poles, 85 pole crossarms and 48 transformers. More damage may be identified as crews continue power restoration efforts.

City crews continued their cleanup efforts Tuesday. The city plans to have all downed trees on homes cleaned up by Thursday evening.

Additional street tree cleanup is expected to last several weeks.

Last weekend’s storm was part of a record-setting month for rainfall in Fort Wayne. With 11.98 inches, it was the wettest June on record and Fort Wayne’s wettest month of all time. The previous record of 11 inches was set in July 1986.

dgong@jg.net