December 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Power Crisis Over - Unless You’re Still Out Remaining Outages In Spokane County Scattered; One Shelter Still Open

Kim Barker Ward Sanderson Contributed Staff writer
 

The emergency officially ended Sunday, almost two weeks after a powerful ice storm swept through the Inland Northwest, snapping trees like pencils and knocking out power to 100,000 homes and businesses.

About 1,300 homes in Eastern Washington and North Idaho served by Washington Water Power Co. and Inland Power and Light were still without electricity late Sunday.

But thousands of people in rural North Idaho were coping with a new outage caused by heavy weekend snowfall.

The Spokane County Department of Emergency Management declared the emergency over at noon Sunday.

All but one shelter has closed. Law enforcement agencies returned to normal operations. County officials reported most roads were passable, and the city transportation department announced it was almost half-finished with picking up debris from the storm.

WWP finished restoring power to the hard-hit Shady Slope residential area north of Spokane. Twenty service crews are still working around the clock to finish hooking up Spokane County’s remaining 200 to 300 blacked-out homes.

“These are scattered outages,” WWP spokeswoman Debbie Simock said. “There are no large blocks of customers without power.”

Kootenai Electric Cooperative has restored power to all its customers except for 30 homes on the east side of Hayden Lake and south side of Mica Bay.

“That’s wrapping it up. We’re really pleased,” said Catherine Parochetti, Kootenai Electric spokeswoman.

Inland Power and Light still needs to restore power to almost 1,000 customers. All the main power lines have been restored, except for the feeder line around Newman Lake.

Eight crews worked around the lake Sunday, repairing broken poles.

“Power restoration in this area has been especially difficult because so many poles have been broken and need to be replaced,” Inland Power said in a prepared statement. “This is much more time-consuming than fixing broken and downed lines.”

The utility is still working to fix poles broken in another storm last week and fix long tap lines in the Elk-Chattaroy and Green Bluff areas.

Meanwhile, families in the Linwood area north of Spokane wonder when their power will be back.

One couple stayed in their home for the first five days of the blackout. They had no water, because there was no electricity to operate the well. They melted snow on a wood stove to fill the toilet tank.

On the sixth powerless day, they checked in at a motel. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, they stayed at a friend’s vacant home.

On Sunday, Joyce Cox and her husband stayed in another motel.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be Tuesday or Saturday or January,” Cox said. “We don’t know a thing. It’s wearing thin.”

Utilities are asking customers still without power to call.

All American Red Cross shelters in Spokane County closed Sunday. The Springdale shelter in Stevens County, which housed 20 storm refugees Saturday night, remains open.

The shelters have served 14,400 meals since the crisis began Nov. 19.

Heavy weekend snowfall thrilled Idaho ski resorts but added to the storm damage.

About 2,000 customers out of the 12,000 served by Sandpoint’s Northern Lights utility lost their power Sunday.

The private power company had 14 crews working Sunday. Workers traveled “on snowcats, snowshoes and however else we can get through the snow,” a crew dispatcher said.

Northern Lights serves small communities from Athol, Idaho, north to Canada, and from the Washington border to Montana.

Barring any more bad weather, most repairs should be done in a day or two, the company said.

But the National Weather Service forecast calls for up to 4 inches of snowfall today in high-elevation areas of North Idaho.

In Spokane, the next few days should offer a reprieve from bad weather.

Scattered rain and snow showers forecast for this afternoon should end by evening. There is a slight chance of precipitation Tuesday and Wednesday, but only clouds and cool weather predicted for Thursday and Friday.

“As far as precipitation goes, we’re in the clear,” said Daran Rife, a weather service meteorologist.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Kim Barker Staff writer Staff writer Ward Sanderson contributed to this report.

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