Avista continues assessment and restoration efforts as the windstorm moves through the region
Spokane, Wash. Jan. 13, 2021, 4:30 p.m.: As Wednesday’s windstorm has moved through the region and the winds have begun to subside, it is all-hands on deck for Avista crews and staff responding to electric outages. Assessment and restoration efforts started early this morning and crews will work around the clock until everyone’s power is restored. At the peak, the windstorm matched the speeds of the historic 2015 windstorm. As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, approximately 55,900 Avista electric customers are without power, with more than 3,700 unique outage incidents.
All available Avista crews are working the outages, including line crews, 18 contract crews and 16 vegetation management crews. After a broad request for regional resource support, 14 additional contract crews and four mutual aid crews from out of the area are preparing to head this way to support the restoration.
Outages began to occur on Avista’s system at 4:00 a.m. and have continued to occur throughout the day Wednesday. Soft and saturated ground due to recent rain has contributed to the amount of trees that have come down as a result of the wind. Across the region, trees coming into contact with electric lines and equipment has caused significant damage to the transmission and distribution system.
As Avista’s restoration efforts continue, safety remains our top priority. The number of trees and branches down has created challenging conditions for crews to complete outage assessment and restoration. Today’s restoration progress has largely focused on emergency or urgent situations and assessment. As it is safe to do so, Avista continues to assess the extent of the damage and restore power. Assessments may take 24 hours or more in some cases, due to the widespread damage, and outages may last multiple days. Estimated restoration times are currently unknown and will be updated as assessments are completed.
“Wednesday’s windstorm has caused significant damage to the electric system across our service area, and we anticipate some customers will be out of power for multiple days,” said David Howell, Avista’s Director of Operations. “We have all available resources focused on assessment and restoration efforts, and we are committed to providing customers with estimated restoration times as soon as we are able, following assessment of the damage. We appreciate our customers’ patience and will continue working around the clock until all customers are restored.”
Safety during an outage
We want our customers to stay safe. With this storm, trees have brought a significant amount of power lines down. Customers should treat all power lines as if they are energized. Customers should stay away from any downed power lines, not attempt to remove limbs from downed or sagging power lines, and should not drive over power lines. If customers see a downed power line, they should call 911 immediately and then Avista at (800) 227-9187 to report its location.
Avista suggests customers take the following steps during an outage:
• Turn off all the appliances that were on before the power went out.
• Unplug electronic equipment, including computers.
• Leave a light or radio on as an alert when power has been restored.
• Help Avista crews working in a neighborhood know which homes have power by turning on the front porch light.
• Do not wire an emergency generator into a home’s electrical system, unless there is a disconnect switch to separate generated power from Avista’s distribution system. Backfeed into power lines could injure or kill a lineman working to get electricity restored.
• Use a generator only to run specific appliances and locate it outside so poisonous carbon monoxide fumes do not enter the home.
To restore power in an outage, we focus on restoring power to critical infrastructure first, such as transmission lines and substations, and emergency facilities like hospitals. These restoration efforts may not be as visible to customers given the location of this infrastructure across Avista’s system. Once critical customers and transmission lines are restored, crews then work to make repairs that will restore power along impacted distribution feeder lines to a larger number of customers. This will leave some customers without power while their neighbors have been restored. Avista crews will come back through to restore individual outages in neighborhoods, which means customers may see service people in their neighborhoods multiple times.
What customers can do
Customers can report a power outage online or through their mobile device at www.myavista.com/outage or by calling (800) 227-9187. They can also download the mobile app for reporting. Registered customers can also text OUT to AVISTA (284-782) or STAT to get current status.
To register, text REG to AVISTA (284-782). The phone number must match the number on the account.
Updated outage status information, including estimated restoration times, when known, is also available on the outage map.
Avista is continuing to experience a large volume of phone calls, and customers should expect longer hold times. We understand this is challenging and appreciate our customers’ patience during this time.
Customers can aid in the restoration process by checking their service equipment for needed repairs. All of these repairs need to be made by a licensed electrician before we can safely restore power to the home. If a customer’s home sustained damage during this storm, the overhead mast may need attention and repair. The mast is usually located on the roof, where electric service connects from the power pole to the home. Customers should look for an overhead mast that is bent and pulled away from the house, causing a wire to hang, or to see if the bent mast broke the fitting where the wire connects to the electric meter. Customers should also look to see if they have a broken meter fitting that caused an arc or burned meter socket.
To find a licensed, bonded and insured electrician, customers can visit www.myavista.com/dealer-search.
About Avista Utilities
Avista Utilities is involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy. We provide energy services and electricity to 395,000 customers and natural gas to 364,000 customers in a service territory that covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.6 million. Avista Utilities is an operating division of Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA). For more information, please visit www.myavista.com.
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