Uprooted tree at the Edible Acre on Dodge Avenue across from Evanston Township High School.

Power outages from three strong storms in less than a month’s time may be jangling some residents’ nerves. The July 11 storm hit Evanston just after 8 a.m. with 75-miles-per-hour winds, according to reports from the City and elsewhere.

ComEd officials reported 500,000 customers in the Chicago area were without power just after the storm hit, many of these outages caused by fallen trees and branches on power lines, according to a statement from the City of Evanston. The City added that on July 11, the “peak outage” was 18,745 ComEd customers in Evanston, a number that had been reduced to 11,812 within a few hours. City reports also said at that time that ComEd believed it would be a “multi-day restoration for the region,” in this case, five or six days.

By comparison, the storm that hit on June 21, with winds at 75-80 miles per hour, knocked out service to 450,000 ComEd customers, but only about 4,100 of them were in Evanston. It took crews almost four days to restore power to all parts of the City.

By mid-morning on July 11 the City estimated that more than 50 trees and 100 power lines were down. Evanston Township High School reported that the exterior roof on Gym 170 was lost due to the storm, and that a large tree fell on the school’s garden, the Edible Acre, located across Dodge Avenue from the school.

Noyes Street between Wesley and Asbury avenues was blocked to vehicular traffic; and elsewhere in the City felled trees blocked portions of sidewalks and alleys. Several traffic lights were disabled by the power outage, causing slowed traffic at the blinking red lights that signaled temporary four-way stops.

Damages from July 11 Storm

Paul D’Agostino, superintendent of parks, forestry and facilities management for the City, and Eric Duray of Commonwealth Edison provided the following information about damage from the July 11 storm.

These are preliminary figures, he said, adding, “It will likely take our crews another two weeks to abate all the hazards and get the remaining downed limbs cleaned up. … My crews continue to find many large hanging limbs throughout the City [that were] broken off during the storm, but just failed to fall out of the tree. They can present a real hazard if we get any further storms, because they could easily blow out of the tree and hit something below.”

Mr. D’Agostino’s early assessment of damages included the following:

• 81 trees down

• 13 trees split that must be removed

• 100+hanging limbs

• 120+ limbs down

• 66 rights-of-way blocked (streets
and alleys)

• 20 locations with property

damage (buildings or vehicles)

Eric Duray of Commonwealth Edison reported ComEd’s assessment of the July 11 storm in terms of wind speed, lightning strokes, downed wires, damaged equipment, crews on duty and service interruptions. The damage from that storm was “super fast” with minimal rainfall, he said. “This storm is probably the greatest storm since the ice storm of 1998, which knocked out service to 865,000 customers.” His figures were for the northern Illinois region, of which Evanston is a part.

• 850,000 customers without power

• 80 miles-per-hour winds

• 18,000 lightning strokes

• 1,100 crews

• 443 downed or displaced poles

• 339 distribution transformers

damaged

• 77.8 miles of wire and cable

to be replaced

Circuits: Troubles and Upgrades

Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam did not attend the July 18 City Council meeting, one alderman said, because of power outages in that ward. Two of his constituents spoke during citizen comment, pointing to one specific area of Northwest Evanston, about 12 blocks, that had experienced extended power outages not just in the recent storms but also on several clear but hot days.

James Wolinski said power was out in that area on four separate occasions. “The problem is that ComEd has deferred maintenance for at least a quarter of a century, he said. “

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “There are several neighborhoods in Evanston where the power goes out on a regular basis.” She mentioned another area in Northwest Evanston where she said power had been out for 9 days of the last 27.

ComEd representatives may meet soon with Ald. Tendam and those residents.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, referred to a bill before Governor Pat Quinn that would allow ComEd and other utilities to increase their rates by about 2 percent in order to bolster their infrastructure, creating a smart grid that would provide more accurate information about service interruptions.

“We’re always going to have storms,” he said. “What we’re really interested in seeing developed is transmission technology. I understand that the smart grid is an infrastructure improvement, but transmission is important.”

ComEd and the City

The City’s Utilities Commission monitors both ComEd and NICOR and makes recommendations to the City Council about energy use and conservation and relations with utility providers.

At the July 8 Utilities Commission meeting, resident Noah Golden, whose power was out for three-and-a-half days after the June 21 storm, expressed his concern about ComEd’s infrastructure. He said he understood that problems and delays in repairs arise after major storms but asked what checks the City has on ComEd for general repairs and upkeep. “My concern is not emergency response. My concern is, ‘Did facilities planning leave Evanston vulnerable to these [outages]?’”

Figures provided by ComEd for 2009 and 2010 show continuing problems in 10 circuits. In terms of outages, the top three are C661, in the downtown core; C4713, at the lakefront; and C4716, which stretches from Ridge Avenue to Dodge Avenue between Church and Main streets. And while casual conversation often points to wind and squirrels as the main cause of power outages, ComEd’s figures show that in 2009 and 2010 a total of 35,337 customers were affected by outages caused by underground equipment: 113 outages lasting a total of 17,235 minutes.

Relations between the City and ComEd have improved over the years, and ComEd now provides regular information about power outages in Evanston. A subgroup of the Utilities Commission, the Technical Review Group (TRG), meets regularly with ComEd to air Evanston concerns. Referring to smart-grid bill, Mr. Golden asked whether the City of Evanston could act as a watchdog to see that the money was well spent.

Utilities Commission member Richard Lanyon said, “We can’t control ComEd, but we can cajole them.”

The City’s Utilities Commission monitors both ComEd and NICOR and makes recommendations to the City Council about energy use and conservation and relations with utility providers.

At the July 8 Utilities Commission meeting, resident Noah Golden, whose power was out for three-and-a-half days after the June 21 storm, expressed his concern about ComEd’s infrastructure. He said he understood that problems and delays in repairs arise after major storms but asked what checks the City has on ComEd for general repairs and upkeep. “My concern is not emergency response. My concern is, ‘Did facilities planning leave Evanston vulnerable to these [outages]?’”

Figures provided by ComEd for 2009 and 2010 show continuing problems in 10 circuits. In terms of outages, the top three are C661, in the downtown core; C4713, at the lakefront; and C4716, which stretches from Ridge Avenue to Dodge Avenue between Church and Main streets. And while casual conversation often points to wind and squirrels as the main cause of power outages, ComEd’s figures show that in 2009 and 2010 a total of 35,337 customers were affected by outages caused by underground equipment: 113 outages lasting a total of 17,235 minutes.

Relations between the City and ComEd have improved over the years, and ComEd now provides regular information about power outages in Evanston. A subgroup of the Utilities Commission, the Technical Review Group (TRG), meets regularly with ComEd to air Evanston concerns. Referring to smart-grid bill, Mr. Golden asked whether the City of Evanston could act as a watchdog to see that the money was well spent.

Utilities Commission member Richard Lanyon said, “We can’t control ComEd, but we can cajole them.”

Outages and Repairs From July 11 Storm

 July 11: 18,745 ComEd accounts without power at peak; down to 11,812 without power within a few hours.July 12:  8,300 ComEd accounts without power.

July 13: 2,000 ComEd customers without power

July 14: 659 ComEd customers remain without power

July 17: Power restored from storm damage. New outages occur.