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EWEB crews making downed lines safe and restoring power across Eugene and the foothills

January 14, 2024 Aaron Orlowski, EWEB Communications

Updated on Sunday, Jan. 14 at 4 p.m.

EWEB crews have restored power for 1,200 customers in South Eugene served by the Hilyard substation (pictured above)!

Originally published Sunday, Jan. 14 at 2 p.m.

As EWEB works to restore electric service to customers affected by the ice storm, the customer-owned utility is following established policies and its “hierarchy of repair” to prioritize repairs that restore electric service to the greatest number of customers.

This means that crews first fix transmission lines that serve thousands of customers, then feeders that may serve hundreds of customers, before moving onto taps that serve clusters of homes. This process ensures that the utility can prioritize repairs that benefit the greatest number of customers first.

“We understand how hard it is to be without power, especially with temperatures expected to stay at or below freezing through Monday. Many EWEB staff who are planning work and out in the elements repairing lines are currently without power themselves and are taking the call to serve the community,” said EWEB Electric Operations Manager Tyler Nice.

Due to the extent of the damage, EWEB is advising customers to prepare for multiple days without power. 

“Our crews are out there working diligently to restore power and we humbly ask for patience from customers trying to get through the cold,” Nice added. “With roads slick with ice, we need to stay safe and prevent injuries and accidents. This means that repairs take time, and we constantly balance safety and speed with customer restorations top of mind.”

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

All EWEB crews are actively making downed lines safe, assessing outages and making repairs.

Crews are also focusing on restoring transmission lines feeding upriver and critical loads to maintain reliability and redundancy. Restoration to that portion of the system has proven to be unsafe at times, so crews are focusing on what they can access and restore first. They’re also investing resources in restoring urban areas, where there are more isolated outages that can be repaired quicker.

EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson issued an emergency declaration for the utility, effective at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. All crews have been working since Saturday morning to assess power outages, make safe any situations that are dangerous, and restore power.

As of late afternoon Sunday, approximately 4,200 EWEB customers were without power. Dozens of scattered outages have been reported in town. Multiple large outages east of Thurston are affecting upriver customers.

Forecasts call for cold temperatures at or below freezing all day Monday, but no additional precipitation and calm winds. Dry conditions are predicted to continue until Tuesday, when there’s a strong chance of freezing rain. This means that existing ice and snow will linger on roads, trees and power lines, which may cause additional outages.

“The sheer amount of ice and the wind gusts have created a dangerous situation that has resulted in poles, wire and other equipment being severely damaged,” Nice said. “We know that this hierarchy of repair can frustrate customers who have to wait for repairs for hours, or as we’ve seen during past storms, days. But in order to get power to homes, and businesses we need to restore equipment upstream first. We’re grateful for everyone’s support and patience as we get the power back on.”

On Sunday, EWEB crews focused on three tasks, following EWEB’s established policies and hierarchy of repair:

First, crews will make safe any situation that poses a threat to customers, such as ensuring downed powerlines are not sparking and are cleared from contact. If a line cannot be made safe, an EWEB “wire watcher” will be posted at the scene until crews can arrive to make it safe. 

Second, crews will assess and restore transmission lines that serve large swathes of territory. Currently, the downed transmission lines are mostly in EWEB’s upriver territory east of Thurston. EWEB will fix these first as resources and materials allow. 

Third, crews will work on restoring power feeders, which may serve hundreds of customers, once their respective substations are powered. Then, crews will work on restoring taps, which typically serve a cluster of homes. Customers in EWEB’s urban territory should check the outage map to ensure their outage has been reported. Customers should bear in mind that smaller outages of 100 customers or less probably won’t be fixed until their outage is assessed.

Always check the outage map for progress at eweb.org/outagemap.

The “hierarchy of repair” ensures EWEB focuses high-impact repairs first.

EWEB follows a "hierarchy of repair" when restoring power after major outages. This system is used throughout the utility industry to get power turned on the fastest to the highest number of people.

The order of priority means first repairing downed transmission and distribution lines that will restore power to the greatest number of people, then focusing on repairing lines that serve fewer customers.

For example, repairing one large transmission line can restore power to thousands of customers, while repairing a small “tap” line that serves a few people in a neighborhood often is more time consuming. The repair of the individual service line that provides power to a single home is often last on the restoration priority list.

The damage sustained at the service line is the most time-consuming to repair. A crew might spend the same amount of time restoring power to a few customers as it takes to restore power to several hundred customers. 

Customers can speed up your own personal restoration process by checking to see if there is damage to their weatherhead or meter base. If they find damage, they can contact a licensed electrician to make those repairs and then have the electrician provide a supervisory letter to EWEB.




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