Ice and snow cover parts of Shiloh Road as Kathryn Cavan tries to clear her driveway of ice with a broom, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Kennesaw, Ga. BRANDEN CAMP
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

Customers in the dark as local Cobb utilities overwhelmed by snow

Tens of thousands of Cobb County residents were left in the dark — both figuratively and literally — over the weekend as local utility providers found themselves overwhelmed by heavier-than-predicted snowfall.

Customers attemping to report outages to both Cobb EMC and the Marietta Board of Lights and Waterworks were met with busy phone lines and little to no information online. Many took to Twitter, Facebook and email to express frustration with what they described as a lack of communication.

Crews are working to restore power to tens of thousands of customers who lost service during the winter weather.

Others urged patience in the face of an unexpected severe weather event, and expressed gratitude for the workers hustling to restore power.

One Facebook commenter, Tracy Lane, wrote on Cobb EMC’s Facebook page Monday that she had been without power since Friday.

“I have my elderly father with us and he can’t climb the stairs and has no access to his electric chair lift,” she wrote. “It would be nice if we could even get an ETA. Georgia Power is giving it’s customers an ETA. I don’t understand why Cobb EMC can’t! That’s frustrating.”

Cobb EMC spokeswoman Leslie Thompson acknowledged customer frustration. At the height of the outages, 69,000 out of 180,000 customers were without power.

“It’s not that we were unprepared, it’s just that the damage is really severe,” said Thompson.

She called the snow storm’s damage “far worse” than that wreaked by Tropical Storm Irma earlier this year. The weight of the snow broke tree branches and a number of telephone poles, in addition to taking out power lines.

“Those are the fixes that take quite a bit of time,” she said.

As for the communication issues, Thompson said the volume of calls simply overwhelmed the system. As employees were scrambling to restore power, they were instructed not to take time to update the website and to “just concentrate on getting power back.”

Marietta BLW faced similar problems. About 13,000 out of 52,000 of its customers lost power over the weekend.

Spokeswoman Lindsey Wiles called it the worst storm to hit Marietta’s power grid in 30 years. She said due to a high volume of calls, at times all 48 phone lines for people to call in to report outages were busy.

Customers “would need to call 3-5 times in order to report an outage,” she wrote in an email. “People were reporting outages via Twitter, Facebook, and my email which I would then send to dispatch to report.”

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