Jan 05 , 2011
WWP's The Illuminator
The Illuminator was Washington Water Power's
monthly employee publication from the 1920s to the
1980s.
Comfort Level Billing helps smooth
the ups and downs of your monthly bill
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Next week Avista will publish print advertisements in local newspapers and run radio spots reminding customers about our billing assistance options. This time of year is often tough on budgets due to our cold winters. This winter (especially when compared to the previous one) has been rather chilly so the timing couldn’t be better.

A co-worker reminded me yesterday about the history behind our Comfort Level Billing program that allows customers to smooth out the ups and downs of a monthly bill into one similar payment every month. The company – then Washington Water Power – started the program in 1957 as a budget billing system.

Click to read 1957 article
Click above to read the introduction of
Comfort Level Billing from 1957.
Yep, that was 54 years ago when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and the company only offered electric service. So if you’re not signed up, it’s not like you haven’t had any time to do it.

Check out this article “Billing System Devised to Ease Customer Payment,” which originally ran in the Washington Water Power employee newsletter, The Illuminator. The program was in its infancy, so a couple of the details have changed since then, but the basic program is the same.
 
Learn more about other billing assistance options here.
Published: 1/5/2011  10:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 27 , 2010
Avista is decked out for the holidays - virtually
Avista's HQ building on Mission decorated for 99 cents.
Post by Dan Kolbet

I didn’t get the Christmas lights up this year. Typical excuses. We were out of town. It snowed too much during the weekend I could have done it. No hot chocolate to warm me up afterward. Whatever. Anyhow, it just didn’t get done. But I got an e-mail this morning that I thought was worth passing along if you were like me and went sans holiday lights this year, but still want to show your holiday spirit.

For 99 cents you can download an app for your iPhone called Musical Lights that allows you to make nifty light and music shows over a picture of whatever you chose. Shown here is an image I took years ago of Avista’s HQ on Mission in Spokane. Five minutes of tinkering and I came up with this jolly little scene. To share the music scene your friends also have to own the app, but you could always just hand over your phone and say, “watch this.” (Now that’s old school).

For those who are a little more creative, forget the app and just drop an image into PhotoShop and create the holiday display of your dreams. Stick it on Facebook and nobody will know the difference unless of course they roll by your house later that day . . . but that’s not very likely.

If you’re really a forward-thinking person (and maybe a bit of a penny pincher) you also might want to make a trip to your local hardware store and pick up some LED holiday lights for cheap. My wife dragged me to Target yesterday and they still had hundreds of boxes of LED lights for 50% off for after Christmas sales. Prices for LED lights have fallen for each of the last few years, but I still think half-off is a good deal. So stock up for next year or throw those lights on the gutters and ring in 2011 in style.

Earlier this month we did a blog post on how much holiday lights could cost you for a month of use. If you’re interested, check out: Keep up the holiday cheer with efficient lighting, decorations.

Just a few ideas to brighten your holidays.
Published: 12/27/2010  10:38 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 01 , 2010
Winter is here
Winter is here in the Northwest. And somewhere inside this picture is a utility pole and power line.
Yep, #WinterisHereNW.
 
Follow Jessie on Twitter: @AvistaCares

Last year at this time, we did a series on Twitter using the hashtag #WinterCountDown to get our followers ready for the cold weather and holidays ahead. This year, the cold weather beat us and the snow just keeps piling up. So we’re not counting down to winter this year; we’re going to plow right through it from now to December 31. So begins #WinterisHereNW.

Winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21, but Mother Nature and La Nina have other plans for us here in the Northwest. So let’s get the upper hand early on and at least get on a level playing field. This means knowing where the energy hogs are in your home and managing their energy consumption. We can help you identify these little monsters. It also means being aware of using extra energy during the busy holidays – with more people at home, more cooking and entertaining going on, and for many of us, more lights both inside and out. We have some tips to help you save energy and still enjoy the season.

This year our elderly and infirm neighbors and family members will need assistance more than ever – shoveling walkways and keeping meters and vents cleared of snow. And some folks may need help paying their energy bills this winter – we have assistance tips there, too.

We’ll be tweeting about all of this and more in the coming weeks. Come join our journey this month. And tell us if there are specific topics you’d like to know more about. We’ll do our best to help you do your best this winter.
 
More info on Twitter
To follow the #WinterisHereNW series, watch for the hashtag being used by Avista's three Twitter accounts. See Avista’s live Twitter feeds, @AvistaUtilities, AvistaCares and @Dan_at_Avista
 
Published: 12/1/2010  10:40 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 29 , 2010
Meter video
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Over the last few weeks as snow dumped on the Inland Northwest, I’ve been urging customers to clear a path to their meters. Time to walk the talk. On Saturday morning I tweeted the above video of yours truly clearing a path to my utility meters. We recieved about 6 inches of new snow at my house that morning, on top of the 4-6 inches we had from earlier in the week.

I have the nifty advantage of a snow-blower to get the job done, but the path doesn’t have to be perfect. Just enough room to get someone in front of it without having to move mountains. And speaking of mountains – for heaven’s sake, don’t pile your snow on top of it! This might happen on accident too, so be aware. When today’s snow turns into tomorrow’s icy slush, it just might slide off your roof and onto you meters. So keep a look out.

So if you want to see me doing some manual labor, click on the video above.
 
Published: 11/29/2010  11:00 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 22 , 2010
 
Shovel that path!
1st grade artwork
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

This morning was a big day around my house. For one, it was the first big snowfall of the year so all I had to do to wake up my daughters is yell “SNOW!” from the hallway and they just came running. The second reason it was significant is that I attended my first grader’s parent/teacher conference with my wife.

Now, I don’t care what anyone tells you – parent/teacher conferences are as much about evaluating your parenting skills as it is about how well your kid is really doing in the classroom. No worries – my daughter is doing great (little sigh of relief!)

Her teacher said something that really stuck with me. The skills she’s learning today builds a foundation for future learning. If she doesn’t get it the first time around – it will be a lot harder to catch up later.

It occurred to me as a walked through 3 inches of snow in the school parking lot that what my daughter’s teacher said would be true of shoveling a path to your utility meter too. If you don’t shovel it when it first snows – it’s going to be really hard to catch up the next time it snows . . . and again and again. Ice could build up or snow could become compact and stay there all winter long.

So, with the really cold weather hitting Eastern Washington and North Idaho today, this snow we’ve got isn’t going to go anywhere soon. Clear a path to your meter today, so it’ll be easier tomorrow. 

Why do we clear a path?
Safety is the number one reason. In case of an emergency, Avista or fire/rescue personnel can reach your meter to turn off gas flow, etc. Also if it’s buried in snow, you’re more likely to whack it with your shovel or snow blower  (or car) when the snow really piles up this winter. It’s also a safety concern for our Avista meter readers who need to get close to your meter to read it. While they can and do read some meters from a distance, it’s a heck of a lot easier to do it when there isn’t a North Pole-sized mountain in front of it.

So, grab a shovel and clear that path today.
Published: 11/22/2010  12:03 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 17 , 2010
Potlatch video
 
Post & Video by Dan Kolbet

Yesterday I met up with several Avista electric line crews restoring power near Potlatch, Idaho. This video shows the clean up and restoration effort along Hwy 95. The audio quality is really pretty poor, sorry about that – but it shows just how windy it was out there even hours after the main storm had passed. At one point my camera even blew over – go figure.

When I left the site last night, new steel poles had been delivered and were being erected. Avista estimates that power should be restored to the majority of customers in the area by this evening, but smaller pockets of customers may remain without power. Avista crews will continue to work until all customers have been returned to service. Customers are urged to contact Avista late this evening at 1(800)227-9187 if their power has not been restored, as there may be damage to nearby power lines, which has yet to be reported.

Shelter opened in Potlatch for residents without power
The City of Potlatch, Idaho has opened a warming shelter in the city for area residents who remain without power from Monday night’s wind storm. The shelter is located at Eastern Star’s Rebekah Hall on Pine Street in Potlatch. Avista is partnering with the City of Potlatch and Latah County Disaster Services to coordinate this effort.

The shelter is heated and will offer food and beverages to those in need. The shelter opened early Wednesday morning and is tentatively scheduled to remain open until at least 8 p.m. tonight. For more information about the shelter, please contact Sandy Rollins, Latah County Disaster Services at (208)883-2265 or (509)330-0676.
Published: 11/17/2010  2:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 16 , 2010
New wind photo album
 
Post & Photos by Dan Kolbet
 
Tuesday’s early morning wind storm damaged up to 11 transmission structures on Idaho’s Hwy 95, south of Potlatch and north of Moscow. The poles were likely pulled down in a domino effect, with wires pulling down the next structure and each smashing into the highway.
 
The slideshow at the top of this post shows the transmission line damage and restoration on Hwy 95 south of Potlatch.
 
Crews from several parts of Avista’s service territory worked to safely remove the poles and wire from the roadway, frequently using chainsaws and wenches to heft the debris to the side of the road. New steel transmission structures and assorted items were delivered to the site on Tuesday afternoon. Erecting those structures will take into Wednesday at least. Just over 1,100 customers were impacted by this outage.

Across our service territory Tuesday, Avista employees worked tirelessly to restore power and keep customers up to date. At its peak roughly 45,000 customers were without power. As of 6:15 p.m. Tuesday night, just 6,600 customer remain without power. Due to the extent of the storm’s damage some customers will remain without power at least through early Wednesday morning. 
 
For the most current information on outages click here.
 
 
 
Published: 11/16/2010  6:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 10 , 2010
Post compiled from information provided by Patrick Maher

Temp
Climate Prediction Center: January, February, March 2011
Temperature Projections
Precip
Climate Prediction Center: January, February, March 2011
Precipitation Projections
It’s a long way from the Inland Northwest to the equator in the Pacific Ocean, but what’s happening there will probably have an impact on the region this winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is projecting that the Pacific Northwest will have a colder and wetter than normal winter thanks to La Niña, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. The cooler water temperatures ultimately impact weather around the world and often lead to extreme weather events. Last winter was an El Niño year – the opposite weather pattern of La Niña - with higher than normal temperatures and little snow.

If the La Niña predictions hold true, it could again mean increased mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest and in western Montana. We know that’s good news for skiers, but what could it mean for Avista?

Above average snow in western Montana could mean increased hydro generation at our Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids facilities depending upon actual snow fall amounts in the mountains and how the spring snow melt unfolds. The more gradual the snow melt, the more Avista can make use of the water in the rivers. The same applies to our six Spokane River hydro projects. About 60 percent of our total hydro generation comes from the Clark Fork basin with 23.5 percent coming from the Spokane River basin.

However, you never know what Mother Nature is going to do. According to the National Weather Service, not every La Niña is the same with a wide range of possible snowfall outcomes. For example, in Spokane the La Niña winters of 1949/1950, 1955/1956, 1974/1975, 2007/2008, and 2008/2009 resulted in over 80 inches of snowfall for the winter season. However, only 30-32 inches of snow was observed in the La Niña winters of 1967/1968, and 1970/1971. So while above average snowfall is more likely for a La Niña winter, it’s not a guarantee. But, it may be a good bet to have your snow blower gassed up and ready to go this winter, just in case.

Regardless of what this winter brings, we’ll have enough electricity and natural gas to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of our customers and provide them with first-class customer service.
 
More info
Avista obtains weather data from a number of sources such as the National Weather Service, Northwest River Forecast Center, DTN Weather and the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Avista uses long-term charts like the ones above from the Climate Prediction Center as information; however, short-term weather forecasts are one of the tools that are used to help determine the amount of electricity and natural gas that Avista may need to purchase in the daily or spot market to meet customer demand.

Forward looking statement
This article contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the article and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009, and the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010.
Published: 11/10/2010  10:05 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 15 , 2010
Lake CdA
 
 
Avista began its annual fall drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene on Sept. 7. We’ll be gradually lowering the lake to about a foot from full pool by the end of September, and then an additional 1.5 feet per month until it reaches its winter level. We want shoreline property owners and boaters to be aware of the annual draft so they can make seasonal preparations, including removing boats from the water and securing docks for low-water conditions.

Avista manages the lake level to prepare for spring runoff, to mitigate flooding in the winter and to optimize power production. As part of our FERC license to operate our Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, which includes Post Falls Dam, Avista is required to maintain the level of Coeur d’Alene Lake at summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet from as early as practical (in May or June) until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Following Labor Day, the lake is lowered to about 6 to 7 feet below summer level over a several-month period. The slow drawdown increases flows of the Spokane River and slightly decreases river levels between the lake and Post Falls Bridge. Spill gates at Post Falls Dam are not opened during the initial stages of the drawdown, and the river should remain open for recreation until November; however, river users should be aware that water levels can fluctuate at any time depending upon weather and dam operations.

For river levels, visit www.avistautilities.com/environment/ourpart/recreation. Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River during the subsequent 24-hour and one-week periods. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington call (509) 495-8043. The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.

Avista also has a new e-mail news system for customers, recreationists, property owners and others interested in news and activities related to Avista’s Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, including river levels and dam operations.

To be added to the mailing list, send an e-mail to Spokanerivernews@avistacorp.com.  Please do not send general questions or comments to this e-mail address, as it is not monitored constantly. E-mail messages that are sent out will have name(s) and contact information of Avista personnel for customers wanting more information.

Spokane River users should always use caution as water levels may change quickly. This warning applies to all areas of the river, especially around hydroelectric facilities.

By obeying warning signs, using common sense and following area rules and regulations, boaters, swimmers and other recreational users can safely enjoy the Inland Northwest’s scenic waterways.

Follow these safety tips:
• Be alert for debris, obstructions, and partially submerged objects.
• Always obey warning signs near dams.
• Never cross boater restraining cables or buoy lines that designate areas where boats should not operate.
• Never anchor your boat below a dam – water levels can change rapidly with little warning.
• Watch for overhead cables and power lines, especially if you’re in a sailboat or catamaran.
• Always wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), no matter what your age or swimming ability.
• Never operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Published: 9/15/2010  2:04 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 06 , 2010
Water levels allow spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed

Post by Hugh Imhof

Avista is advising Spokane River users that river recreation is now permitted in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the Post Falls Dam. River volumes have dropped sufficiently to allow the spill gates at the dam to be closed. 

The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park is expected to be opened to the public today. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday.  The median date for closing the gates is June 22; however the date has occurred as late as July 8 in 2008 and as early as May 22 in 2005.

Avista expects summer operation at the dam to continue through Labor Day, as long as weather conditions allow.  River users are cautioned that weather conditions can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.

For current information on Spokane River flows and Coeur d'Alene Lake elevation (includes anticipated changes in flow and elevation for the coming week) call 208-769-1357. For information on Spokane River flows and Lake Spokane elevation (includes anticipated changes in flow and elevation for the coming week) call 509-495-8043.

Links to weather and water flow information are available here: http://www.avistautilities.com/inside/resources/Pages/waterflow.aspx
Published: 7/6/2010  10:33 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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