2017-12-06 / Front Page

Power company won’t pay for damages from November 24 power surge

by Kate Shunney

A spokesman from First Energy/Potomac Edison has said the power company won’t pay homeowners’ and resident claims for damages associated with a November 24 power surge in the Great Cacapon area.

Power was knocked out to roughly 1,800 customers on Black Friday shortly after 10 a.m., said Todd Meyers. Customers on two circuits were affected by the outage. Those included residents in Great Cacapon, Doe Gulley and Orleans. Power was restored two hours later.

Meyers said the cause of the outage was fairly common – that a tree off the power company’s right of way fell onto the electrical lines along Woodmont Road.

In the November 24 incident, however, the tree caused a higher-voltage line on top of the pole to come into contact with a lowervoltage line below it.

What that caused was a high-voltage surge of power into customers’ homes.

One Great Cacapon resident reportedly had their electrical box blown off a trailer near Doris’ Deli in the incident. Several others had appliances and electronics ruined by the surge. Residents heard several large explosions when the surge happened.

Those living in areas served by those power lines have had to replace household items ranging from televisions to heaters to washers and dryers as a result of the incident. Phone and internet service was also knocked out by the power surge.

Great Cacapon resident Tammy Campbell received a letter from Potomac Edison saying the company would not pay for her damages. Campbell’s home heat pump was blown by the surge, as was her stove, DVD player, modem and a surge protector strip. She has filed a claim with her insurance company, but has a $1,000 deductible.

“I shouldn’t have to use my homeowner’s insurance for something they did,” she said.

Campbell suspects a lot more people have damage from the surge than they know – including cabin owners who haven’t been to the second homes since Thanksgiving.

Meyers said First Energy has so far received 21 damage and loss claims from residents who were affected by the surge two weeks ago.

“We do not pay these claims. They will be denied. Some of them already have been. We recommend they file them with homeowner’s insurance,” Meyers said.

He admitted that’s not what power company customers want to hear.

“That’s not good news for customers,” Meyers said.

The company considers the incident an “act of nature,” and therefore one they don’t claim responsibility for.

Meyers said Potomac Edison has cleared vegetation and trees from their right of way, but in this case, the tree that fell was on someone’s private property. It was tall enough or leaning far enough to reach the power lines when it fell.

The two lines that came into contact carried 34,500 volts on the upper line and 12,000 volts on the lower line. The upper line was what Meyers called a “pretty heavy duty” electrical distribution line. When the two lines came into contact, they created an “overvoltage situation,” Meyers said. “Houses aren’t equipped for that.”

In response to questions about how homeowners could protect against a surge like the one on November 24, Meyers said there are wholehouse surge protectors on the market, but he doesn’t know if they could have helped in this case.

He said the common surge protector power strips are only meant to handle a small surge, like one that happens when the power is cut and is suddenly restored.

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Is it an act of nature that

Is it an act of nature that the power company is still using 1800s telegraph pole technology rather than going underground for the lines ?

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