Well, we are about halfway through the winter of 2010/2011, and I must say the weather in this corner of the world has been somewhat more challenging than usual this season!
You will experience in the attached photos a strange dichotomy… the scenes show an absolutely beautiful winter wonderland, while at the same time they belie the difficult conditions such weather places on the power and water systems servicing our customers.
I know many of our customers are dealing with their own very real issues of snow loading on their roofs, and the fear of ice dams that can back up melting water into their living spaces. For us here at PUD, our major concern is how these severe conditions can affect our power lines and water system in a way where outages have the potential to put our customers in harms’ way or discomfort. We have fared much better than I could have hoped for this season with only a few spot outages from these conditions. The week of January 30 through February 5th was our most challenging period, in that the potential for icing of our power system was extremely high. Icing can weight down our lines and structures to the point of breaking, and also cause overhead branches to fall on these lines and short them out. The fact that we only had minor outages during this period was a combination of good luck that the freeze/thaw temperatures prevented major icing, and that the dedication of our staff over the years to build a durable system and maintain that system has kept our facilities robust. Such good construction and care has really helped minimize storm damage, and my hat goes off to our caring staff.
When PUD designed the reconstruction of its primary system several years ago, the decision was made to use coated wire which allows the system to withstand substantial branches crossing over the lines. In an uncoated system, falling branches can immediately short out a line. PUD has also had a very aggressive tree-trimming program that has helped keep snow laden branches from crossing our lines to a minimum.
So let’s hope the weather for the remainder of this winter moderates to a more normal level. In the meantime, the PUD staff will continue to work extremely hard to keep our facilities well-maintained and we will be responsive to the infrequent outages when they do occur.
And above all else, we ask our customers to be safe, to report outages and downed lines when they occur, and to always, always stay away from downed power lines.