Nov. 22, 2015, 4:30 p.m.: Today additional reinforcements from Montana and Portland joined the current 97 Avista, contract and mutual aid crews who’ve been working 24/7 to restore power since Tuesday night’s windstorm. That brings the total workforce to 123 crews working around the clock on a rotating basis. The combined workforce consists of at least 650 people working in the field -- the majority of which are line crew employees.
Because of the magnitude of destruction, even with nearly five-times the normal Avista crew count, it will still be late Wednesday evening before power can be restored to the majority of customers.
“I want to express my sincere empathy for our customers. Living without power in these cold conditions for several days is very stressful and trying. I’m extremely grateful for our customers’ patience and perseverance,” said Avista Chairman, President and CEO Scott Morris. “Let me assure you, we continue to dedicate every available resource at our disposal to restore your power as we recover from the worst natural disaster in our company’s 126 year history.”
Daunting task ahead
The bulk of the crews are currently focused in Spokane, the hardest hit area. 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.
By this afternoon, power has been restored to 140,000 customers. That’s 78 percent of the 180,000 customers who were without power at the height of the storm. Restoring the remaining 40,000 customers will be extremely challenging because of the nature of time-consuming and labor-intensive repairs that are necessary in the field.
Because of the enormous degree of destruction, work is taking longer than expected:
· As crews arrive onsite, they may identify additional work that needs to be completed,
so a job that they thought would take 6 hours, may take two or three times longer.
· Near Maple and 8th Street in Spokane, 36 power poles were taken down.
o Replacing one distribution pole can take a crew up to 6 hours.
o Even with multiple crews onsite and it will take several days to complete this work.
o This one incident alone will only restore power to about 500 customers.
· Work on the distribution feeder in Spokane’s Glenrose neighborhood started Friday and will take several days to repair.
· In another situation, it took a crew 4 hours to restore power to 8 customers.
Crews in the field continue to face difficult conditions:
· We’re working in populated areas.
· Access is difficult. Some power poles are located in back yards or easements that cannot be accessed by heavy equipment or bucket trucks.
Materials may need to be manually carried and we need to hand dig holes to set poles.
· In some neighborhoods, crews must jack-hammer holes through basalt rock to place a pole. Working on hillsides also presents unique challenges.
We ask for and appreciate continued patience from our customers. Please know that we are committed to restoring your power as quickly and safely as possible.
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