Tens of thousands in Washington state shiver without power

24 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Avista says repairs may take three more days.

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people who have been shivering for nearly a week without power after deadly storms swept through Washington state were bracing for snowfall Monday and the possibility of preparing Thanksgiving dinner in the dark. Sunday the Greater Spokane Department of Emergency Management urged people to remain watchful while crews continue to work to restore power to everyone following Tuesday’s windstorm. With snow mixed with rain predicted for early in the week, and continued low temperatures, those still inside their homes and without electricity need to remain vigilant in protecting against carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia.

Officials are seeking volunteers to go door-to-door to check on homebound residents and make sure they have what they need and are staying safe and warm. There is also possibility for frozen and/or burst pipes—keep a running stream of cold water from affected pipes/faucets and keep applicable cabinet doors open to encourage heat flow. One in five Avista customers in Spokane County remained without electrical service Sunday, five days after a powerful windstorm toppled trees and power lines across the region. The Central Valley and Mead school districts planned to reopen Monday, but Spokane Public Schools said all of its schools would remain closed Monday because of power outages and school routes blocked by debris and downed power lines. Despite the cold, food she bought for Thanksgiving spoiled and she called off dinner plans with relatives who planned to travel from western Washington for the holiday.

She said she’s frustrated and angry with the local utility because she cannot get answers to when power will be restored to her home in Spokane’s South Hill area. Five schools were operating as warming shelters for those without power and served a total of 2,100 meals to people on Saturday and Sunday, officials said.

In northwest Spokane, the 99205 ZIP code had about 6,100 customers without power Sunday night, or 30 percent of Avista’s accounts in that part of town. The utility brought in line crews from across the West and Canada to try to rebuild its damaged system. “This workforce faces the daunting task of repairing the hundreds of miles of distribution lines that were destroyed in Tuesday’s devastating windstorm that left a path of toppled trees, broken poles and tangled wire in its wake,” Avista said.

City of Spokane continues to make progress with fully deployed crews focusing on clearing arterials and other critical areas around schools and health care facilities—residential and side streets will follow. They are Rogers and Ferris high schools, Glover and Salk middle schools, and Grant Elementary School. “We understand the hardship this decision puts on our families, and ask for your patience and understanding as we work around the clock with Avista and maintenance staff to open our schools,” the district said on its Facebook page. During its power outage, SCRAPS accepted lost animals and allowed owners to redeem their pets, but the shelter suspended other operations such as licensing and providing spay and neuter vouchers. “We’d like to remind pet owners to please come down to SCRAPS and redeem their pets as quickly as possible,” regional director Nancy Hill said. “We’ve got lots of well-fed animals down here who really just want to go home.” Avista said additional reinforcements from Montana and Portland joined the 97 Avista, contract and mutual aid crews that have been working on repairs since Tuesday’s storm.

Due to high volumes, the Spokane County Regional Solid Waste System is directing residential storm-related yard and tree waste to its North County Transfer Station, 22123 N. By Sunday evening, power had been restored to more than 140,000 Avista customers throughout Washington and Idaho, or about 80 percent of the 180,000 customers who had lost service at the height of the storm. Restoring the remaining customers “will be extremely challenging because of the nature of time-consuming and labor-intensive repairs that are necessary in the field,” Avista said. Replacing a single distribution pole can take a crew up to six hours, and 36 power poles alone came down in just one area, near Maple Street and Eighth Avenue.

On rotating shifts, 123 Avista crews (four times the normal crew count) are now in the field working in populated areas—46,000 homes are still without power in their service area. Avista continues to dig out from the worst natural disaster the company has seen in its history and, due to the magnitude of the destruction, work is taking longer than expected.

Inland Power and Light, inlandpower.com, is still focused on efficiency and safety in their restoration efforts as 6,000 of their members remain without power. Some of the jobs are being slowed by tight spots where heavy equipment and bucket trucks don’t fit, tricky work on hillsides, and places where crews must jack-hammer holes through basalt rock to place a new pole. “I want to express my sincere empathy for our customers.

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