CRPUD spokeswoman says outages are typical in January storms

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - High winds Saturday took down a tree on Apple Valley Road near Baumgartner Lane in Scappoose. The tree landed near a service pole (background), taking down power lines and causing an outage in the area. Weekend wind storms knocked down a number of trees in Columbia County Saturday night, Jan. 11, causing six power outages throughout the region.

Overall, Columbia River People’s Utility District representatives say the outages affected 955 customers, with an average outage time of 4.69 hours.

While the storm was significant, Libby Calnon, communications specialist with the PUD, said the event was not uncommon.

“In 2009, we had a snowstorm that caused outages for 1,464 customers,” she wrote in an email to the Spotlight. “In 2008, we had a windstorm that caused outages for 3,866. So it’s not uncommon for us to have weather-related outages in January.”

The Saturday storm totaled about 4,480 outage hours, Calnon said, adding that outage hours are calculated by multiplying the total number of customers affected by an outage by the length of the outage.

“It’s not too bad, really, for as strong as the winds were,” Calnon said. “Three of the outages were in Scappoose. Three were in the Deer Island-Rainier area.”

Wind speeds Saturday night reached 47 mph at Scappoose Industrial Airpark and 36 mph in Rainier, according to the National Weather Service’s Portland Weather Forecast Office. The agency also reported wind speeds of up to 70 mph at the coast Saturday.

“A 50 mph gust is strong enough to bring trees and tree limbs down,” Calnon said. “We’re lucky it’s been dry. When the ground is wet, it’s easier to topple trees.”

Calnon said that, due to the PUD’s tree-trimming program, the district has been able to decrease the amount of storm-related outages that occur throughout the year.

“In 2013, we had 12,434 hours of outages. It was the lowest total of the past decade,” Calnon wrote. “We have about 18,600 customers, so that’s an average of about 40 minutes of outages per customer, for the whole year.”

Calnon said the low amount of outages last year was also a result of system maintenance improvements and “mother nature delivering us fairly calm weather during the year.”

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