PUD 3 Details Snowstorm Outages

Mason PUD 3 has released details on the outages the utilities experienced during the recent snowstorm. According to officials, this week’s snowstorm is perhaps one of the most damaging storms Mason PUD 3 has experienced since the Hanukkah Eve windstorm of 2006, which left nearly 20,000 PUD 3 customers without power, and it took a week or more to restore all service.

During the snowstorm this week, about 9,000 customers were out, nearly two thirds represented by outages in the Matlock area, N Shore Road, and the substation that serves much of the Tahuya Peninsula west of Belfair.

As of 10:30 AM, February 14 we have 94 customers left. Most are single-customer outages.

This storm that began Monday had all the ingredients for widespread damage. Over a foot of snow in some areas, limbs weakened by a snowstorm over the weekend, and extremely cold temperatures. The situation was aggravated by the fact that unlike the weekend’s powdery snow, Monday’s snow was the usual sloppy, wet Pacific Northwest variety. Tuesday’s mixed rain and snow added to the weight on trees and electrical equipment.

The snowfall started innocently enough late Monday morning. By 2 PM its effects were being felt:

  • Trees and limbs started pelting power lines the entire length of the North Shore road west of Belfair, making it a veritable kill zone for trees. Two line crews worked alongside our tree crews and a contract crew to clear the area and start reconstructing miles of damaged line. The project was finished at 12:10 this morning
  • High voltage transmission lines that feed the Dayton substation lost power, causing an outage for 2,820 customers in most of the southwest portion of Mason County. The power was restored, thanks to help from the Bonneville Power Administration. Meanwhile, about 600 customers remained out, because of extensive damage to an underground power line near Matlock. Deep snow at the site; difficulty coordinating utility locates; transportation of our equipment that detects the location of underground power line damage; added to the difficulty of finding the cause of the outage. We found that 30 feet of cable had literally exploded underground. We replaced that section and restored most of the customers overnight.
  • In the middle of the North Shore reconstruction project, transmission lines feeding the Collins Lake substation lost power. That substation serves 2,820 customers. We were able to re-energize the substation. Damage to power lines from the Haven Lake feeder prevented the restoration of 1,022 customers until early Wednesday.

Our crews are methodically working their way through smaller and smaller concentrations of outage areas. To put this outage into perspective:

  • Nearly 9,000 customers, representing 270 individual reported outages, lost power (26% of our customer base).
  • 257 of the reported outages (or 95%) were concentrations of 50 customers or less.
  • 73% of the reported outages represent single customer outages.

We are now in the most difficult period of any outage of this magnitude: restoring power for all the small, isolated outages in our service territory. This could take several days.

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Widespread power outages after a major storm can take time to repair. We always work from the center out:

  • We repair damage to substations first. Unless the substations are working, power can’t get to customers down the line.
  • Next, we clear obstructions and repair primary lines.
  • Then we inspect, and repair tap and secondary lines in residential neighborhoods.

The first two steps usually restore power to most customers.