There are 500 beds set up in 15 tractor trailers warmed by giant generators. A dining hall that might not be as nice as Harry Potter's Hogwarts but is almost as big and able to accommodate 500 contractors is stationed at PPL's Hurricane Sandy staging area at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.
This temporary command post stems from new PPL Corp. "best practices" that are helping organizers gain two hours of productivity from each 12-hour shift the restoration-response team works.
The streamlined restoration efforts are surely part of the reason PPL Regional Community Relations Director Melinda Stumpf has updated power restoration estimates to Friday night -- rather than the previous target of Sunday, Nov. 4.
"We hope to have 80 to 85 percent of customers restored by Friday night," Stumpf said.
New "best practices" were made in response to last October's Snowmageddon. Donald Samala, PPL site manager at the Dorney staging area, said contractors use the site for everything from lodging to getting work orders.
Patch visited Thursday and got an up-close look at the dedication of PPL crews and the thousands of contractors who have come from as far away as Missouri, North Carolina, Alabama and Florida.
In addition to the sleeping and dining areas, there are trailers equipped with showers and a laundromat, and a diesel tanker arrives about 10 p.m. to fill up all vehicles, thus eliminating the time it takes to stop at the gas station.
"PPL's goal during this restoration effort is to be able to cut travel time for out-of-town contractors in order to maximize the amount of time they can work," said Samala, of Upper Macungie.
About half the beds were filled Wednesday night and Samala, who also lost power thanks to Hurricane Sandy, expected they might all be taken by Thursday night because an additional 360 contractors were scheduled to arrive. There is a similar staging site set up in Wayne County.
PPL mobilized about 1,500 contractors prior to the superstorm and that number is expected to almost double by this morning (Nov. 2). And don't forget the hundreds of PPL employees. Samala said just about everyone at PPL, from accountants to engineers, have dropped their normal duties to work on getting power restored.
Most PPL customers have received restoration estimates for Sunday, Nov. 4, but the new influx of contractors might make Stumpf's new 85 percent a reality.
Customers are encouraged to sign up for PPL alerts. Stumpf said the company will contact affected customers when restoration work starts in their neighborhood. Only PPL account holders can sign up for alerts.
Samala and Stumpf both said they appreciate Dorney's generosity and the extra work South Whitehall Township and police have done to get contractors in and out of the area safely and quickly.
As of Thursday night, 8,573 South Whitehall customers had power restored and 6,948 were still in the dark. In North Whitehall, 5,253 had been restored and 1,401 were not.