CHICAGO (CBS) — Officials at ComEd said, believe it or not, power outages from last week’s severe storms could have been worse, if not for the new “smart grid” upgrades the utility has made in the past few years.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, while some 440,000 ComEd customers lost power last week when the Chicago area was pummeled by back-to-back storms – including eight tornados – ComEd executive vice president and chief operating officer Terence Donnelly said so-called “smart grid” technology prevented another 43,000 outages.

“That’s things like our storm-hardening work, as well as our smart switches deployment,” he said. “That’s about 10 percent, in terms of the storm, and we believe that’s significant.”

He noted, in addition to eight tornados, there were approximately 70,000 lightning strikes across the Chicago area, any number of which could have struck utility poles or trees overhanging power lines.

Donnelly said improvements and investments in the utility company’s infrastructure helped repair crews restore power to more people faster than in the past.

“Although the severity of this storm was extremely high, if you look at the comparisons to major storms we’ve had in the past, we see upwards of about 20 percent improvement in overall duration,” he said.

However, some customers did have to wait more than three days to get power back.

ComEd is about halfway through its project to build up its smart grid.