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We Energies President On Challenges Of Restoring Power To Thousands, Response Time Criticism

Downed tree
Cassie Schauble
A tree that fell down in Milwaukee after last week's powerful storms.

Last week, severe storms knocked out power for more than 200,000 people in across parts of Wisconsin. It took several days for power to be returned to some of the homes. We Energies says it was one of the largest power outages it has ever dealt with.

Two Milwaukee aldermen released statements criticizing We Energies for its response to the storms. Meanwhile, We Energies President Tom Metcalfe says crews worked tirelessly to quickly restore power. "Really, I think we should look at Mother Nature here. If we have to blame anybody, it’s this historic storm that we should really be looking at," he says.

While We Energies is drawing major criticism for their response time, Metcalfe asserts that the company provided more resources than even the city could. Metcalfe says, "I mean that we have the financial capacity and ability to call in for mutual aid to have literally hundreds of line mechanics and electricians in the field working 24 hours a day to get our customers restored."

After the historic storms last week, Metcalfe says We Energies held a debrief to learn what went well and what didn't. "I know we did have challenges with our applications and our IT systems during the earlier going in the storm and that we were overwhelmed in terms of our capacity to handle the number of calls that we got. So that is certainly an area that we're going to work on," he explains.

Despite the criticism, Metcalfe is satisfied with We Energies' response to last week's storms, and is optimistic about the company's ability to handle future challenges. "If I step back and just look at how quickly we got so many customers back on just, you know, a few short days overall, I feel like, you know, ... it was a pretty quick response," he says.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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