Then we woke up. The power outages peaked around 600 and the numbers have been dropping since. What gives? Did all of that public shaming work? Was Pepco's apology tour sincere? Or did they just luck out weather-wise?
Turns out, it's a mixed bag.
For one, the weather just wasn't as bad this time around. January's thundersnow, for instance, was so bad that motorists were trapped on the roads for upwards of nine hours in its aftermath. The power lines didn't fare that well, either. Last night's storm didn't come close to causing as much damage, says Pepco spokesman André Francis.
But Pepco did prepare a little differently ahead of yesterday than it has previously. Ahead of last night's storm, Pepco scheduled crews and staff well ahead of time to work overtime and be on call earlier than usual. That wasn't necessarily the cause in January, when Pepco waited until after the storm actually hit to call in for mutual assistance crews.
“That’s definitely one of the lessons we learned. We caught flak in the media and from customers over that and we want to make sure that that was something that wasn’t going to be an issue at all,” says Francis.
Extra workers were also called in earlier than usual ahead of Saturday's high winds, which knocked out power for nearly 35,000 customers. All of those people got their power back by 8 a.m., Sunday. Pepco had 600 crews members working 16-hour shifts to get that accomplished.
But whether that preparation made that big of an impact is another matter, especially given that the weather wasn't nearly as bad.
"I don’t want to make it seem like it’s only us, that we’ve been doing something we haven’t done before. The weather didn’t pose so much of a problem that it would have made a huge difference anyway," Francis surmises.
The caution in holding crews for longer hours seems to be the post-thundersnow trend. Pepco held its mutual assistance crews Jan. 31 when another round of ice was going to hit (mass outages didn't materialize). Pepco held its own crews and contractors over for extra shifts Feb. 14 when high winds were in the forecast, but alas, no mass outages.
How much are those additional man hours costing Pepco? Francis says they are still compiling the costs and won't have that information until they've filed their official financial report. We'll update once we know more.