Power Out For Thousands In Mid-Atlantic

Feb 7, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders and Pennsylvanians are still without power, after a winter storm earlier this week dumped as much as a foot of snow in some areas.

The lights have come back on for about half of those who lost power, but thousands are expected to be in the dark until late in the weekend.

Tom McDonald of WHYY in Philadelphia joins Here & Now’s Robin Young with the latest.


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And hundreds of thousands of people in Maryland and Pennsylvania are still without power after a winter storm earlier this week dumped as much as a foot of snow in some areas. The lights have come back on for about a half of those who initially lost power, but thousands are expected to be in the dark until late in the weekend. Tom McDonald is with HERE AND NOW contributor station WHYY in Philadelphia. Tom, remind us, for people maybe outside the East Coast region who have been seeing these pictures, why was this so devastating? It's not just snow.

TOM MCDONALD, BYLINE: It's very easy. It started out with snow and it followed with ice. And basically the trees were encapsulated with ice, looking like a big popsicle. The problem was the stick of the tree just couldn't take all the ice. A lot of the trees bent, some as deeply as 45 degrees, and a lot more trees broke. They fell on the power lines. The total in Philadelphia region was about 600,000 people without power.

YOUNG: Wow. And outside that, you add 200,000 more. I think it's fallen to about 436,000 as of last night. Pennsylvania declared an emergency - a state of emergency. What does that mean?

MCDONALD: That means that the National Guard can come in and help with some of this power restoration. It also triggers FEMA aid and some federal aid, helps a lot of people who are really hurting right now. The governor came in yesterday and said in some cases this is worse than Superstorm Sandy.

YOUNG: Mm-hmm, because of the way it's just cut people off. It's the dead of winter. It's freezing. What are people doing to keep warm?

MCDONALD: It's very interesting. A lot of people are teaming up because on one side of the street you'll see people with the lights out. Across the street the lights are on. Neighbors are helping neighbors. A lot of people got generators for Superstorm Sandy. I spoke to a couple, one 78, one 88, husband and wife, who are running a generator every other hour, getting the house warm, letting the house cool down, then warming the house back up again.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well - and I'm sure you are cautioning them there in Pennsylvania. Be careful what you bring inside the house to warm things up, right?

MCDONALD: Yeah. That's one of the things that's really been happening. We actually had a story here of a person bringing a charcoal barbecue grill into the house to warm up and then, of course, being overcome by the carbon monoxide.

YOUNG: Yeah, terrible. So be careful there. Well, meanwhile, I know my sister outside Valley Forge is going to the Wawa to charge her phones. You know, tell us some other stories about how people are handling this.

MCDONALD: Well, you know, it's interesting. In this life that we live now that's overrun by technology, people are looking for any place to charge. The cable companies here are offering charging stations at their local areas. The malls are opening up warming and charging stations, anything to bring people in, bring people together. And, of course, if you're in a warm mall, you might want to buy something.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, that would be good for the economy. What about kids, schools?

MCDONALD: Schools are back to session right now, so the children have a warm place to go. And people are just hunkering in. Of course, now with all the days off they've had with the schools, the schools are wondering what they're going to do to make up those days, might be cutting into that spring break.

YOUNG: Yeah. Just, you know, there's inconvenience, there's terrible disruption with - because it's so cold. But have you got a dollar sense yet of how this is going to hit the state?

MCDONALD: You know, it's really hard to figure it out. I know that the impact is considerable because a lot of places have closed down with these storms. These aren't normal storms. They're really crippling storms. They've been shutting down businesses. And, of course, every day a business is shut down, that's hurting the area economy.

YOUNG: Boy, how many times have we heard that this winter? These aren't normal storms. Tom McDonald from HERE AND NOW contributor station WHYY in Philadelphia on the massive power outages in the Mid-Atlantic. Tom, thanks so much. Stay warm.

MCDONALD: Thank you very much.


Well, Robin, you were talking about your sister having to go to the Wawa...

YOUNG: The Wawa.

HOBSON: charge. I was in New York during Superstorm Sandy. You don't think about how much you rely on these electronics until you can't use them. Not just not being able to charge them during that storm, you couldn't get any service in many parts of Manhattan. So you were completely cut off from the rest of the world.

YOUNG: Right. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.