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EWEB Drills Down on Winter Storm Preparation

October 27, 2022

EWEB team meets to practice winter storm drill

Imagine if heavy snowfall and freezing rain hit Eugene this winter. Imagine damaged trees, road closures and widespread power outages. 

What would you do?  

EWEB’s electric division and emergency management staff imagined that exact scenario this week during a mock winter storm power outage drill that is conducted every year. More than 60 staff members participated in the drill that simulated a five-day storm scenario where power was lost to over 18,000 customers.  

The thought of such a widespread outage can be alarming, but it’s a reality we can’t ignore. You may recall the ice storm of December 2016 or the “snowpocalypse” in February of 2019 that dumped 18-plus inches of snow, both of which left more than 20,000 Eugene homes without power for days. 

Living in the Pacific Northwest means beautiful landscapes and a full range of seasonal weather, including extreme weather events. What can we do to combat extreme winter storms? Be prepared. 

The drill conducted this week is called the “Blue Sky Drill” and is an annual practice ahead of winter storm season. Just as we would in a real emergency event, staff activated an Incident Command System, a standardized approach to incident management used by government agencies at all levels. Roles and teams are established for safety, planning, operations, logistics, interagency coordination and public communication. Each team works simultaneously to coordinate and resolve issues that arise during emergency response. 

The drill helps identify gaps in plans and training, develop skills, reveal resource needs, and improve internal and external coordination. It enables staff to test their skills and practice working together across all departments to handle a large-scale outage restoration. 

“A part of preparing for storm season is a shift in our frame of mind to align with the shift in seasons,” said Tyler Nice, EWEB electric operations manager. “I think this drill helped us activate that mindset across the utility by working towards a common goal, finetuning our processes, and identifying areas of improvement before we are faced with an actual storm.”  

Emergency management partners from Lane County and the City of Eugene also participated in the drill. Their insights helped improve our multi-agency coordination with road, tree and emergency management processes.  

Running through a mock widespread outage is just one-way that EWEB is preparing for the possibility of a weather-related incident. We are also replacing aging infrastructure and developing redundant power and water sources . Focusing on emergency preparedness and response will always be a strategic priority for EWEB as we continue to provide safe and reliable electricity and water to customers. 

Here are a few ways you can prepare your home and family ahead of winter: 

  • Store 14 gallons of water per person (one gallon per person, per day is enough for two weeks) 
  • Stock up on nonperishable food for the entire family 
  • Build an emergency kit for your vehicle 
  • Stock up on batteries and power banks to recharge cell phones and other electronic devices 
  • Buy a battery powered radio 
  • Join EWEB’s Pledge to Prepare

To receive emergency alerts by email, sign up for EWEB’s Emergency Alert & Preparedness email list.