PUD still working to restore power to 22,000

TULALIP — Three days after a record wind and rainstorm, linemen on Friday continued work to restore power to 22,000 customers still in the dark.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District had no firm estimates of when electricity will be restored.

About half the PUD’s 332,000 customers lost power Tuesday. The storm tied with the 1993 Inauguration Day storm as the PUD’s second-worst outage ever. The worst was the freak storm this year on Aug. 29, which knocked out power to 175,000 customers.

No rain is in the immediate forecast, which will allow flooded lowlands to drain, but the weather is expected to turn cold, with nighttime temperatures dropping to lows in the upper 20s to mid-30s through Sunday, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

For those still without power, that could make for some chilly nights.

PUD spokesman Bob Bolerjack said areas without power are scattered around the county, with significant concentrations north and east of Snohomish, from north of Lake Stevens west to Smokey Point and Tulalip, and in the Lynnwood-Mukilteo area.

“We’ve still got 70-odd crews out there working,” Bolerjack said.

That amounts to about 500 personnel from the PUD, contracting companies and other utilities in the field, plus an equal number of support staff in the office.

It may be Saturday before all the utility’s customers have power restored, Bolerjack said.

PUD crews are working around the clock until every customer has power back, he said.

Some of the worst damage to power lines was on Marine Drive on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, where two trees fell on a major distribution line that supplies a large number of homes.

Line foreman Jeff Roberts said two crews from the PUD and Tacoma Public Utilities were repairing more than 3,000 linear feet of power lines that carry 12,470 volts of electricity. It’s the seventh repair job he’d been on since the Tuesday storm struck.

“It’s weird for us to be out here three days in doing a job of this size,” Roberts said. “Every tree we’ve come upon has been mammoth.”

He anticipated finishing the job on Marine Drive by Thursday afternoon.

Julie Brandt marveled at the destruction from her home across the street from the downed power lines. She had just returned Monday evening from a trip to Florida, and hadn’t much time to prepare for the storm. She woke up Wednesday morning to see giant fir trees leaning on the power lines in two places.

“This literally looked like a bomb went off. It looked like a scene from a bad movie,” Brandt said. “Thank God we have a small generator, but we ran out of gas the first night.”

She also has a wood stove, so she and her family of six are able to stay put, making runs into town for gas or water. Other neighbors were staying elsewhere until the power was turned back on.

PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos said when major power outages strike, the utility prioritizes repairs, starting with emergency services like police, fire and hospitals, as well as substations and major transmission lines.

In Tuesday’s storm, two substations and nine transmission lines serving them were knocked out, he said. The substations and seven of the transmission lines were back up Thursday.

Next on the priority list are outages on major distribution lines, such as the one on Marine Drive. Then come smaller neighborhood circuits, and those outages affecting populations in outlying areas.

One isolated outage was right in downtown Monroe.

A tree fell on a power line on 160th Street SE. Tuesday. It didn’t break the line, but it triggered a surge.

Warren Moore was at home with his wife when the lights dimmed around 4 p.m. Tuesday. He stepped outside in time to see a tremendous flash as a pole-mounted circuit breaker tripped, cutting power to his street and the next one over.

But that was it. The neighborhood is on an isolated circuit, and buildings a few streets away still had electricity.

He started a generator in his motor home to get power to the main house — his wife has multiple sclerosis and they need the power to charge her chair.

Moore said he called the PUD several times and visited their Monroe field office to find out when they will fix the circuit.

They could only tell him they had the problem in their work order queue.

“Damn it, we’re in the middle of Monroe,” he said. “My neighbor, 25 feet behind me — porch light’s on all night.”

“We’ve been going out to dinner every night,” he added.

His neighbor across the street, Juanita Scharf, doesn’t have a generator or anything else except a fireplace.

She stood before the fire to keep warm in her wood-paneled living room while pointing out pictures of her extended family. The only light was from the rapidly setting sun and a small glow from the fire.

“We went salmon fishing in September and our freezer is full of salmon,” she said. “I haven’t opened the freezer door.”

She said her husband, Rob Scharf, has lived in the house for 40 years, and the longest the power had ever gone out was two hours.

One block away at Rodland’s Auto Service on 161st Street SE, owner Harold Rodland was running a generator to keep the lights on, but it wasn’t putting out enough power for the shop’s hydraulic lifts, compressors or welders.

He’s had to reschedule a lot of work, he said.

“We’re usually three to five days booked out,” he said, as the lights flickered and an employee went out to refill the generator with gas.

Rodland said he’d also called the PUD three times, and was told there were 169 service calls on the utility’s list.

The shop is on the same circuit as the Scharf and Moore households, but the garage’s front office is on a different circuit on W Main Street. The shop has working computers and phones, but they can’t do any real work, Rodland said.

“We’re the only shop in the city without power,” he said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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