Frigid temperatures and blustery winds walloped much of the Northwest in the days leading up to and continuing through the Christmas holiday weekend. The extreme weather left thousands without power at the worst possible time.
The Bonneville Power Administration experienced two dozen outages that began when the weather started rapidly deteriorating on Dec. 22. Outages continued past the holiday as high winds continued knocking out power.
“Our crews get battle-tested each winter with every storm that rolls in,” said John Lahti, Transmission Field Services vice president. “I'm very proud of how our field employees and dispatch centers came together and responded to these storm related outages. The biggest challenge during this response was definitely the weather conditions and balancing a timely response while keeping our crews safe.”
BPA mostly responded to issues stemming from trees falling on lower-voltage lines and other points of delivery. “It’s hard to compare to other events,” said Steve Felker, Munro Dispatch supervisor. “This was of course an interesting one-two-three punch with cold weather followed by ice and then a wind storm.”
It took BPA and various other utilities longer to repair lines in some instances where conditions were too dangerous for crews to assess or repair. “When events happen around Christmas, there are always a lot of folks on leave, which requires either calling them in off of leave, or patching crews together, but Transmission Field Services always responds and makes repairs as quickly and safely as possible,” said Felker.
Still, storm conditions left numerous residents and businesses without power, with many experiencing outages for more than 24 hours. “Our dispatchers, field supervisors and front-line leaders do a great job planning and executing emergency responses while taking inclement weather and employee safety into account,” said Lahti. “Our teams understand the importance of restoring power as soon as safely possible to our communities, especially during times of extreme temperatures.”
BPA has restored power from this particular event, but weather-related outages happen throughout the year with varying intensity. Atmospheric rivers, windstorms and wildfires can all impact transmission lines.