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EWEB achieves power restoration milestone over the weekend

January 22, 2024 Aaron Orlowski, EWEB Communications

EWEB crews worked through the weekend to continue restoring power for customers and by Monday morning only 8% of customers who had lost power at the peak of the ice storm still needed their power restored. 

Outages peaked on Wednesday morning at 24,000 customers, after a second barrage of ice struck the region. As of Monday morning, about 1,900 customers remained without power, meaning that EWEB had restored power to 92% of those who originally lost it. 

“Getting over 90% is a major milestone for our crews, who have been working 16-hour days for more than a week straight. But much of the hardest work remains to be done,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. “This progress and the support from the community gives us fuel to keep working as quickly and safely as possible to restore power for our remaining customers.”

EWEB finished repairs and re-energized its transmission line up Camp Creek Road late Sunday evening and expects that progress to result in larger restorations in the area Monday. At the same time, for a significant number of these last customers in the area, there will be work ahead to get their power on due to challenges accessing electrical equipment and the damage suffered. 

Seventeen crews, including 11 contract crews, are in the field working to get the power back on. All told, about 250 EWEB staff are solely dedicated to working on the emergency. 

Even though the ice has melted and EWEB has restored power for tens of thousands of customers, weakened tree limbs are still falling and causing additional outages. For instance, on Saturday, a tree limb came down and knocked out power for more than 2,000 customers in the Willakenzie area. Crews responded to the outage, made it safe, assessed the problem and restored power.  

On Sunday, the majority of crews worked upriver in the McKenzier River Valley, replacing poles and preparing for restoration in the Camp Creek area ahead of that area’s main transmission line being energized. Crews re-energized the transmission line from Thurston to Walterville late Sunday night, one of the first steps to complete before power can be restored for most of the remaining upriver customers. 

The ice storm incurred enormous damage on the lower McKenzie River Valley, where crews are working to repair large transmission and feeder lines. Some back roads remain inaccessible, hindering progress. On Monday, crews made progress in the Deerhorn, Camp Creek, and Cedar Flat areas.

After Wednesday’s peak, crews initially made rapid progress repairing large equipment that serves thousands of customers. Now that crews have started repairing small pieces of equipment that serve clusters of homes, the pace of restorations has slowed by numbers, but not the effort or dedicated resources. Especially in town, the remaining work is on tap lines that serve individual neighborhoods, generally less than 20 customers. These are often the most time-consuming repairs. 

As these smaller areas are restored, single customers may experience outages even after their neighbors are energized due to damage at their property. It’s important for customers to look at their weatherhead, service entrance and meter base to see if it is damaged. In some cases an electrician may need to be contacted by the customer to make needed repairs, and coordination with EWEB to make safe and re-energize once the repairs are made.

EWEB projects that crews will complete the bulk of restoration of the power system by Thursday. The vast majority of affected customers have already seen their power restored, but much work remains for the rest of the week. A small number of customers in areas with difficult repairs and severe damage, such as more remote areas upriver, should prepare to be without power past Thursday. 

Customers can check EWEB’s outage map for more details: eweb.org/outagemap