Increased electricity use sparks power problems in Berks

Water main breaks, frozen pipes also an issue

ONTELAUNEE TWP., Pa. - Our week-long bout of extreme cold continues to cause problems for utility companies and their customers in Berks County.

Met-Ed crews are working to restore electricity to approximately 180 homes and businesses in Centre, Ontelaunee, and Perry townships.

At the same time, Reading Area Water Authority crews have been dealing with water main breaks brought on by the prolonged period of extreme cold in and around the city.

"In the winter, we get freezing-cold temperatures, which makes the ground shift," said Tony Reynolds of RAWA. "When the ground shifts, it makes the pipes shift, and that's when we have these breaks."

The power outage is the result of an extreme use of power by the utility's customers because of the subfreezing temperatures that have gripped the region over the past seven days, officials said.

Some traffic lights on Route 61 are also impacted by the outage.

Officials said they expect crews to have the power restored sometime Tuesday evening.

The latest outage came several hours after Met-Ed repaired a similar problem that knocked out electricity to customers in the same area.

"They (Met-Ed) told me at 3:30 [p.m. Monday] they were gonna have the power on. 3:30, the sun was shining. I thought we were in good shape," said Clair Miller, whose pipes froze during the first outage. "5:30 to 730, 8:30, then 9:30. Then, they said they wouldn't get it on until 11:30."

As for RAWA's problems, officials said crews responded to water main breaks Tuesday in the 1300 block of Carbon Street, at the Warren Street Bypass, in northwest Reading; Monday night in the 1700 block of Liberty Avenue in Kenhorst, and earlier Monday in the 1200 block of Lancaster Avenue in southwest Reading.

"We have a plan in place," Reynolds said. "We have people on call and we have more than enough staff to cover anything that might arise."

The latest issues come on the heels of a weather-related water main break and sinkhole that developed last week in the unit block of Allison Road in Bern Township.

When it comes to preventing your own pipes from freezing, Reynolds said there are some steps you can take.

"Have a faucet running very slowly. As long as there is a constant flow of water, the pipes won't freeze," he said. "You want to try to get as much heat around any water faucet or whatever have you."

If the time for prevention has passed, then it may be time to call a plumber.

"When we get a call about frozen pipe, we respond to it," Reynolds said. "A lot of times, it's from people who don't have heat in the basements. We tell them to get heat into the basement, and we tell them they may need a plumber to thaw the line on the inside."

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