Fox Valley power should be restored by Wednesday evening

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE 7/24:

Utility crews expect to have power restored to We Energies and WPS customers in the Fox Valley by Wednesday evening.

The WEC Energy Group--which includes We Energies and WPS--says about 13,700 customers remain without power after last weekend's devastating storms. Five tornadoes touched down in Northeast Wisconsin. Storms knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

"We Energies crews will join the small army of field personnel already working to rebuild parts of the WPS network in the communities hardest hit by the storms," reads a statement from WEC spokesperson Amy Jahns.

Customers in Wabeno, Antigo, Elcho and Stevens Point should have power by the end of Thursday, says Jahns.

Overall, We Energies and WPS have restored power to 250,000 customers since Friday.

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PREVIOUS UPDATE:

The number of homes and businesses still without power in WBAY's viewing area fell below 20,000 for the first time since early this weekend.

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, an estimated 19,471 electric customers in Northeast Wisconsin were still in the dark. WPS had 15,335 customers without power and We Energies had 3,081 according to their websites. Oconto Electric was down to 680 at last report, and Alliant Energy was down to 375.

Combined, the utilities have restored power to more than 265,000 customers since storms hit Friday and Saturday.

We Energies expected to have power restored to almost all customers in the Appleton and Waupaca areas by late Tuesday.

The utility expects to restore power to 95 percent of WPS customers by late Tuesday. Hard hit areas of Wabeno, Antigo, Elcho and Stevens Point should be restored by late Thursday.

"We have a small army of field personnel working on restoration. This includes our own crews and others from around the Midwest. Additional crews are arriving today," reads a statement from We Energies.

Oconto Electric said it met its 90 percent restoration goal Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, crews were working at Ranch, Half Moon and Frog Lakes.

Crews are putting lines underground at Old 64/Shay Lake Tuesday. They estimate power will be restored to that area by Friday.

Some customers with damage to their homes or property may not have power restored at the same time, and some may need an electrician to complete the repairs.

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PREVIOUS UPDATE

Utility crews are expected to work through the night to bring back power to storm victims.

We Energies expected 95 percent of its customers would have power by Monday evening. By 11 p.m., the utility reported outages affected fewer than 10,000 homes and businesses, including 7,455 in Outagamie County and 1,283 in Waupaca County -- down from 21,000 Monday morning.

Wisconsin Public Service says 95 percent of its customers should have power restored by the end of Tuesday, excluding those customers that have too much damage to their home or property. Wisconsin Public Service had 39,000 customers without power late Monday morning, the last figure reported.

WPS and We Energies had more than 1,000 field and support personnel working on restoration Monday.

"At this time, we do not have a specific estimate to when all customers will have power restored. However, some customers may be without service for multiple days," a statement from We Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns read.

Utilities say power can't be restored to some homes and properties where the damage is extensive, and some storm victims may need the service completed by electricians.

We Energies says these storms were some of the most powerful to hit the Fox Valley in 20 years. Utilities have restored power to more than 270,000 customers since Friday.

Alliant Energy had another 1,184 customers in WBAY's viewing area without electricity. Alliant said the main obstacles are trees, broken utility poles and downed lines. The Amherst area had the most broken poles, so the work there will take longer.

Oconto Electric Cooperative on Monday said it had 979 customers without power, the last figure we have available. The utility hoped to have lights on for most of its customers by Monday night, but north of Highway 64 the damage is so extensive it could be another two or three days to restore power. Old Highway 64's restoration estimate is Thursday, July 25.

At least four tornadoes touched down in Northeast Wisconsin Saturday. There is widespread damage from downed trees and power lines (see related story).

TORNADO INFO

NEW LONDON

When: July 20 - 11:05 a.m.

Rating: EF-1

Est. Peak Winds: TBD

Path Length: TBD

Max Width: TBD

Injuries/deaths: None

HORTONVILLE

When: July 20 - 11:18 a.m. - 11:22 a.m.

Rating: EF-1

Est. Peak Winds: 90 mph

Path Length: TBD

Max Width: TBD

Injuries/Deaths: None

GREENVILLE

When: July 20 - 11:22 a.m. - 11:23 a.m.

Rating: EF-0

Est. Peak Winds: 85 mph

Path Length: TBD

Max Width: TBD

Injuries/Deaths: None

WRIGHTSTOWN

When: July 20 - 11:36 a.m. - 11:39 a.m.

Rating: EF-0

Est. Peak Winds: 80 mph

Path Length: TBD

Max Width: TBD

Injuries/Deaths: None

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PREVIOUS UPDATE

As of early Sunday evening, more than 100,000 people are still without power after severe storms blew through central and eastern Wisconsin. More crews from around the Midwest are on the way to assist restoration efforts.

“This has been the worst outages they’ve seen in at least 20 years,” said We Energies Media Relations Manager Brendan Conway.

“For some customers, because of the extent of the damage and the severity of these storms, there will be outages and some customers that experience and outage for multiple days,” said WPS Spokesperson Matt Cullen.

But, all things considered, both energy companies say their crews are doing excellent work.

“We’ve been working non-stop. We’ve been able to make some progress today, we’ve had hundreds of crews out today,” said Conway.

We energies and WPS say more than 150,000 customers have had their power restored, and that crews will be working around the clock for however long it takes to make sure everyone gets their power back.

“Our crews are members of the communities that we serve as well. So they may very well be affected by these storms, they may not have had power, they may be going on a day or two that they haven’t had service in their own home,” said Cullen. “So again, I think that speaks to their dedication.”

“[In] about a line of four, five energy trucks and it was kind of cool, neighbors came out and they were clapping and excited to see them,” said Conway. “So we do appreciate everyone’s patience, we know it’s been a long few days for them.”

During these last few days crews first prioritized lifting downed power lines and other safety concerns. Now it’s all about restoring main power lines in some of the hardest hit areas, all while making sure the crews are keeping themselves safe, too. A large part of that is making sure all employees get eight hours off between each shift.

“For both We Energies and WPS safety is the highest priority that we have. Because if our crews aren’t being safe they can’t perform their job safely,” said Cullen.

Though in this case the job is requiring more effort than normal, they plan to see it through as quickly as they can.

“Our crews are going to be out there until the very end, until the last customer is restored from this storm our crews are going to be out there working around the clock to be able to restore power,” said Cullen.

“They know how important it is and I think they’re proud of the work they’re doing,” said Conway.