PUD manager recounts crews efforts to respond to storm outages
February 18, 2021
On Tuesday, General Manager Dave Tramblie gave an overview of the utility’s response to this weekend’s winter storm at the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioner’s meeting.
“The guys started at 11 p.m. on Friday night,” he said. “The other crew came out at about 2 a.m. on Saturday. At 3 a.m., we lost Bonneville. The guys responded to the substations and were told to wait for a Bonneville Power Administration switchman to arrive. I got there at 3:15 a.m., and in no uncertain terms I made it very clear to them that we were going to isolate between Cathlamet and Grays River, and they were going to energize at Driscoll [Substation in Oregon]. They did so.
“We picked up the Cathlamet Substation, and we isolated the bypass switch that we had asked Bonneville to put in after we built the Wahkiakum [Substation]. We opened that switch, and closed the switch to energize the two spans to the Wahkiakum switch, and then we energized the Wahkiakum Substation, and we got everybody back on in about 45-50 minutes on this end of the county.”
“Then my crew that was on the Westend went to Grays River, and called dispatch. They opened the switch at Grays River headed towards Cathlamet, and then they energized at Naselle, and picked Grays River up,” Tramblie continued.
“Around 4 a.m., we had probably 95 percent of our people out of power in the Westend,” he said. “I got a call about 8:30 a.m., and was requested to come down. I went to the Westend and found the guys on the highway, past the Rosburg Store, and Shane [Pfenniger] asked if I would look at an issue. We drove over to Covered Bridge Road where we had lost two river crossings. The section of conductor that was across pasture, probably 1,500 feet, and two river crossings was pretty much on the ground. We wrestled with how we were going to get that back up. In the meantime, I got a hold of Pacific PUD, we did some isolating there by this side of Deep River and picked up a good percentage of our customers on the far Westend and then came back and proceeded to work on the section from the Rosburg Store to Miller Point Road that was just a disaster. There was a wire down in almost every span. We spent all day Saturday trying to get that back up. By Saturday night, we had that whole section back up.”
“We got the water treatment plant back on mid-day Saturday, give or take,” he added. “Sunday morning, I went down with the guys, and Shane and I decided we were going to re-route that feed that went across the river and put it alongside the road. We got that all built, late yesterday afternoon, and got everybody back on by 6:30 p.m. last night.”
“We lost two or three poles on that river crossing,” Tramblie said. “We lost a lot of cross arms. There was a lot of wire down, and trees everywhere. Thank goodness a few years ago we put new underground in on Altoona Road. If we hadn’t done that, we’d still be out there.”
“I think the whole community is proud of the crews and very happy, and I think for the most part very understanding. You did a heck of a job,” Commissioner Dennis Reid said. “I was listening to the scanner and you could tell the guys were getting tired, but they kept doing their job.”
“For the limited amount of people we have, they got a lot done, Tramblie said. “It’s a real testament to the people we have here.”
In other news, the commissioners awarded a contract to Pacific Pole Inspection LLC which bid $56,000 to complete a pole testing project, and approved guidelines and an application created to disburse the $10,000 provided by Wahkiakum County to assist PUD customers who have been struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic.
The commissioners then closed the public meeting for an executive session to discuss personnel issues.