Evanston encourages residents to contact state lawmakers after some lose power for days

Alexandria Johnson

Thousands of Evanston residents whose homes lost electricity for days after a severe storm June 21 should complain to state lawmakers if they are upset by power company Commonwealth Edison’s slow response, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

After deploying more than 800 crews, some from neighboring states, to fix the downed power lines and damaged equipment, ComEd restored power by Friday morning to 99 percent of the 440,000 customers statewide who lost power. But several hundred Evanston customers still lacked electricity at that time, and 1,000 to 1,500 were without power as of Thursday, according to email updates from the city.

“There is a lot of frustration because certainly throughout all of northern Illinois there were hundreds of thousands of people without power,” Bobkiewicz said. “After 24 hours there were still several in Evanston without power, and I think we’re all very used to these conveniences. And while I think all of us understand a few hours, when it goes into a second day or beyond, it’s very difficult.”

Because this storm reached an extensive area in northern Illinois and affected thousands of customers, assessing and repairing the level of damage took a hefty amount of resources and time, ComEd spokesman Bennie Currie said.

“The important thing I think to focus on is that we had a half million people out of power over such a widespread area in our service territory, that it takes time to get to everyone,” Currie said. “That is something that happens after every storm, but after a storm of this magnitude and forces, it’s a byproduct of the situation.”

To encourage faster assistance with power outages in the future, the City of Evanston is still communicating with ComEd to find ways to improve practices, and Bobkiewicz encourages Evanston citizens to contact lawmakers if they are unhappy with ComEd’s reaction.

“The Illinois General Assembly plays a key role in convincing ComEd to allocate more resources to infrastructure issues,” Bobkiewicz said. “I hope that residents are aware of the General Assembly’s role and will reach out to their state representatives if they wish to advocate for change.”

Northwestern suffered from power outages in 42 buildings after the storm as well, leaving many students living in campus residences out of power.

“It would have helped for NU to specify which of those buildings had emergency lights and which ones didn’t because that could have saved people from making a trip to campus,” Medill rising senior Leezia Dhalla said.

Many students living in Evanston for the summer dealt with sporadic bursts of power during the storm and were forced to find other locations to sleep after the outages.

“I’m living in on-campus housing, and we were evacuated for a night,” Communication rising senior Nate Bartlett said. “I was also cooking during the initial storm at a friend’s house, and we had to keep turning the stove back on. We lost power six times in 15 minutes.”

While the city initially struggled to receive a response from ComEd, when the crews came to the area, a city staff member was sent to the utilities department to help coordinate efforts for restoration.

“We try to be good advocates for our residents, and initially we had some difficulty getting through because I think ComEd had its hands full, especially at the start,” Bobkiewicz said. “Our hope from the city’s perspective is that Edison learns from these outages and has ways to employ resources even better in the future.”

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