11 Investigates: Power surge takes out appliances, power company won’t cover damage

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. — Residents in a local community tell 11 Investigates that they lost thousands of dollars worth of electronic items and appliances during a wind storm last month, and tonight they’re upset because the power company won’t cover any of the damages.

Channel 11 Chief Investigator Rick Earle spoke with residents in the Westmoreland County community of Crabtree, which is just north of Greensburg on Rt. 119.

Residents said it happened on Jan. 9, when a windstorm hit the area, and knocked out power.

The storm caused a power surge that fried appliances to approximately 25 homes in the community, according to neighbors.

“My heat pump was only a couple of years old. Two summers ago we put this in,” said Robbie Fitzpatrick, who also lost his hot tub.

“It took the main control panel out and it would not turn itself on at all.  This is the breaker from the hot tub.

“It’s a GFI breaker, and it burned so bad when it tripped, it would have actually shot flames out,” said Fitzpatrick, who also lost a few other smaller appliances and a couple of breakers in the electrical panel.

And he’s not alone.

As many as two dozen neighbors in the Crabtree community suffered damages as well, according to residents.

“My neighbor lost the same control panel out of his heat pump that I did.  The guy across the street from him lost his control panel for his garage door. They lost two TVs, and a microwave and he lost his brand new refrigerator,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick called West Penn Power but was told there’s nothing they can do, and to contact his homeowner’s insurance.

“You can claim homeowners but they won’t help you with a deductible or anything. West Penn is saying it’s an act of God, you are on your own,” said Fitzpatrick.

Earle reached out to West Penn Power as well.

They confirmed that it happened during a storm on Jan. 9th that disrupted service to nearly 40-thousand customers.

They said the power surge occurred when high winds damaged a wooden utility pole in the Crabtree area, causing a higher voltage line near the top of the pole to fall and come into contact with a lower voltage line beneath it on the same pole.

West Penn said 11 customers had filed claims and they were all denied.

“We recognize the seriousness of any customer’s loss and genuinely regret the occurrence, the wind storm was an act of nature beyond our control,” said West Penn’s Todd Myers.

Fitzpatrick said that’s little comfort to him when he’s stuck with a repair

Fitzpatrick: The total for my house, I bet I’m in between three and three and a half grand.

Earle: So, it hit you guys pretty hard.

Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Fitzpatrick went ahead and filed a claim with West Penn.  He received a letter denying his claim.

While West Penn only received claims from 11 homeowners, residents tell me as many as 25 homes had damages to appliances.

Even though they are denying claims, West Penn is advising homeowners who suffered damages to file a claim anyway.

West Penn said residents may need the documentation to prove to their insurance companies that they sustained damages.

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