Crews create their own path to restoration   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Electricity, Power Outages, Washington, Idaho

Broken power pole
This power pole was ripped from the ground during a powerful storm in the
Lewiston/Clarkston Valley in early May. One damaged area was so
remote that our crews had to build a road to access it.
View photos on Flickr of the windstorm damage as well as the crews’ efforts in restoration.
View photos on Flickr of the windstorm damage as well as the crews’ efforts
in restoration. 
Post by Sarah Hilbert

When the power goes out – we go all-out for you. In early May, a strong windstorm in the Lewiston/Clarkston area caused many outages, taking out power to 18,000 customers at its peak. Poles were snapped in half and downed power lines were strewn about in hard-to-access areas throughout the Clarkston Valley.

One concentrated outage had taken out 7,526 customers. Most of our customers were restored after we rerouted power over serviceable power lines; however, a few customers remained out for hours until the final repairs were made. This post should give you an idea of what goes on during a large power outage.

This day was challenging because it involved a large number of damaged transmission structures/lines, which serve thousands of customers, plus distribution lines – which serve neighborhoods. Many of the lines were in very remote locations, which are difficult to access quickly.

All hands on deck
We were able to restore power to most of our customers in short order thanks to an all-hands-on-deck approach. We assessed the damage quickly and assisted the local first responders, while beginning the restoration work out of our Pullman and Clarkston offices.

Initially, crews could not even reach the most damaged feeder (a large power line serving many customers) because it was so remote. But within a few hours, we worked with customers to get approvals to access their property and contractors to use equipment to build a construction road, greatly decreasing the repair time. 

In order to get the materials we needed to get the lights back on, we had to pull items from several warehouses throughout our service territory – and fast. Even gas department employees (who don’t typically work on the electric service side) got in the mix by pre-assembling steel poles and transporting materials.

Hearing from you
Our Contact Center call volume spikes when large outages occur. More than 18,400 calls came in on during this storm day. Fortunately, 62 percent of the calls were handled through our automated phone system, doing the work of 150 full-time employees. This both saved you on-hold time and money, through fewer employees. Our reps personally handled nearly 7,000 calls, well into the night.

When the lights go out, you know we’re committed to getting you back on line as quickly and safely as possible. Yet we don’t often detail what lengths our employees in the field go through to restore power. This outage wasn’t typical, given the number of damaged structures, but our response was – working as a team to provide the best service possible for our customers.

View photos of the windstorm damage as well as the crews’ efforts in restoration. 
Posted by  System Account  on  6/9/2010
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