Snow pulls down power, phone lines

Last updated: February 13, 2024 - 2:28pm

Wet and heavy snow caused widespread power and phone outages Tuesday.

In Columbia and Montour County, lines to reach emergency crews went dead because of a Verizon outage, and power was cut to thousands.

PPL Spokeswoman Tracie Witter said 2,350 customers in Columbia County and 1,641 in Montour County were without power Tuesday afternoon.

Those figures do not include the borough of Catawissa, which was without power since 8 a.m. Tuesday. The borough has its own electric company but relies on PPL’s lines to feed their own.

PPL estimates it could be Thursday afternoon before many areas see power restored.

“We’re expecting this to be a multi-day restoration effort,” Witter said.


Man stations

The East Central Emergency Network, which dispatches emergencies in Columbia and Montour Counties had its ten-digit emergency dispatch lines stop working when Verizon reported an outage, Director Jeremy Brown said.

While callers could still reach 9-1-1, the outage meant those calling non-emergency numbers could not get through, Brown said. The ECEN briefly suggested fire companies man their stations in case of emergency.

As of 2 p.m., ECEN Deputy Director Alex Karpinski stated that phone service had been restored.


Borough dark

The storm left the entire borough of Catawissa without power when the PPL lines that feed the borough-managed electric service went dead.

Catawissa Borough Treasurer Judy Snyder said unhappy residents called the borough office all day Tuesday wanting to know when power would be restored.

Snyder said the power was first reported out around 4:30 a.m., but at some point it came back on. It went out again shortly after she arrived for work at 8 a.m.

Snyder manned the phone at Catawissa Borough Hall, which also had no power.

“I’m getting yelled at a lot,” she said.

She said the problem is with PPL’s power grid, which provides the borough with electrical power.

“It is not us,” she said.

Catawissa head of Public Works Robert Dunkelberger was working to get in touch with PPL officials while Snyder fielded calls from residents who told her they were on oxygen or complained they were getting cold.

“Rumors are flying around that it will be Thursday [before power is restored] and boy, I have residents who are panicked,” Snyder said.

By 1 p.m she thought she had spoken to most of the borough’s residents by phone.


Flashlights, not candles

The lack of power closed businesses and left residents in the cold as temperatures sank from the mid-50s the area had enjoyed for several days to more seasonable mid-30s.

PPL’s online outage map showed more than 1,300 had no power in the Bloomsburg and Scott Township area Tuesday afternoon. Another 1,600 customers in southern Columbia County, 1,000 in Montour County's Cooper Township and 500 in Montour County's Mahoning Township also had no power.

“Today’s winter storm caused extensive damage across our territory, with heavy, wet snow bringing down tree branches and wires,” Witter said Tuesday.

Witter said PPL is expecting it to take days to restore power to more that 92,000 customers statewide.

She also gave a warning for those relying on generators: “Never operate the generator in an enclosed area, like a garage, where deadly carbon monoxide fumes could accumulate.”

She asks customers to use flashlights instead of candles to reduce the risk of fire.

She said the company has called in additional help including line line workers, foresters, damage assessors, electricians and call center staff.

“We’re assessing damage and have assigned estimated restoration times (ERTs) for areas in our territory,” Witter said. “Because of the scope of repairs, full restoration could take through Thursday for some customers, although many customers will get power restored sooner, as crews work around the clock to repair damage.”

Updates are available online at or by texting “Outage” to 898775.

M.J. Mahon covers Bloomsburg and can be reached at 570-218-7536 or

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