The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Snow and ice leave most of county without power

 

Lou Marzeles

DEALING WITH THE STORM: A city plow truck makes its way down Columbus Ave. as a car carefully passes. Friday morning.

Snow and ice hit hard in Klickitat County over the past week, disrupting power and business and causing damage to transmission lines, cars, and homes.

As of yesterday afternoon, about 1,800 PUD customers were still without power as crews worked long shifts around the county to restore power. Work was continuing in Trout Lake, Appleton, Snowden, and Glenwood. The hardest hit area for power outage and damage to lines was Glenwood.

The cost for Klickitat PUD to deal with the power outages is estimated at about $100,000 a day since Friday when more crews were dispatched. Besides its own staff, crews from four other counties were brought in to help restore power as quickly as possible.

Power in almost all of the county went out on Saturday when a tree fell on a Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission line near Lyle at about 11:20 a.m.

“The real problems aren’t Bonneville related at all; they’re just weather related,” Klickitat PUD General Manager Jim Smith said yesterday. “We had our first outages on Wednesday, down in the west end. We started with problems down through that whole Trout Lake, Glenwood, Snowden, on Wednesday and Thursday. We had lots of pretty wet snow, and that started causing outages. Then we had freezing rain. So you had all of that wet snow that froze, but then as it rained, everything just got heavier and heavier. So then the outages started to spread. I was amazed we didn’t have problems in Goldendale sooner than we did.” Smith said extensive tree trimming over the past two years probably accounted for the lower damage reports in Goldendale.

Soon large trees, some as high as 100 feet, were breaking under heavy ice and snapping onto lines and roadways—and in at least one instance onto a building.

“It was a helpless feeling,” Smith said of the rapid spread of outages. “On Thursday and Friday especially, and into Saturday morning trees were coming down and taking lines down way faster than we could put them up. We had guys out, and they could hear trees falling all around them. There were areas where we pulled them back out” for safety reasons.

By Friday additional help was obtained from Benton PUD. “The problem was, things were so bad and the snow was still coming down, we couldn’t get into some areas yet,” Smith said. “Then Saturday morning we got that thaw and a little bit of wind, and that started melting everything, which is what we needed. If that hadn’t happened, we would have been in way worse shape.”

Trees were breaking everywhere. “There were trees between BZ Corner and Trout Lake that had to be 100-foot trees,” Smith said, “and they were just miles of them running parallel to the road and to our lines there. And they looked like upside-down fish hooks, the tops of them were so bent over. These were big, strong trees. On Friday and Saturday we took somewhere between 20 and 30 trees off the lines between BZ Corner and Trout Lake alone. We did lose some on Saturday. So when things started to thaw, that got a lot of the load off the trees, but it also caused more damage.”

Then Saturday morning power went out throughout almost all of Klickitat County when a tree hit the BPA line near Lyle. BPA was able to isolate the line within a few hours, and power came back up in Goldendale and much of the county, but Lyle and other critical areas remained powerless. “So we went back in, fixed Lyle; they were on Sunday night,” Smith said. “Glenwood’s been without power three days.” That area remained without power as of yesterday as well. “Glenwood, Trout Lake, Snowden, parts of Appleton as we speak [Monday afternoon] are still without power. White Salmon and Bingen for the most part are on. They went out on Saturday and we got them back on early [Sunday].”

Klickitat PUD crews hit the field as soon as outage reports came in, and their first shift was a straight 36 hours with an eight-hour break afterward. “Now they’re working pretty much 4 a.m. to 8 p.m., so they’re working 16 hours and taking eight off,” Smith said. “We’ve got two crews from Benton that we brought in, we also brought in two crews from Franklin PUD, two crews from Cowlitz PUD, and we’ve got one more from Clallum PUD should be here tonight.”

When the weather started to clear a bit on Saturday, crews made significant headway. Still, some areas were so inaccessible that a helicopter was required to fly over the transmission lines going toward Glenwood because it was impossible to traverse the line on the ground. “That gave us an idea of how bad it was,” Smith said. “Normally we wouldn’t do that, but the access was so bad and people had been out long enough already. We’ve got two crews working on the transmission lines to Glenwood. In some cases, some of our big line trucks are being pulled in on a CAT; access is that bad. There are two crews working on the line to Trout Lake, and we’ve got two crews working in Trout Lake and Glenwood putting stuff back up. Trout Lake is probably [Tuesday] morning.” Glenwood, Smith correctly predicted, could take longer. “There’s a lot of damage there.”

Lou Marzeles

True Smith enjoys the mountain of snow in the Holcomb’s Sentry parking lot Saturday afternoon.

Most people have been accommodating the situation with patience, though Smith recognized some would take it hard. “There’s probably a couple hundred customers spread from one end of the county to the other who’ve been out for a while now, and we’ve got to go fix them,” he said. “What order do you fix them? No matter what you do, you’ve got people who are torn, and we’re trying to help people; we’re making assignments of where you go. That’s why we brought in so many crews. But customers have been out a long time, and it’s understandable. They’re reasonable people asking good questions. People are tired and cold. Our guys have been working 16 hours a day for four or five days; they’re getting tired, too. It’ll probably get harder as we go through the next three or four days.”

Smith gave a rough estimate of the costs for PUD in dealing with the outages at about $100,000 a day. He indicated that the PUD would apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for those costs, given that the state and the county both declared emergencies, with the PUD expected to do the same.

 

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