Recurring power outages frustrated Washington Water Power Co.’s efforts to restore service to thousands of customers Wednesday.
A chagrined Paul Redmond, chairman of the Spokane utility, said workers have reconnected far fewer Spokane and Kootenai county residents than expected.
Although the utility’s generators, trunk lines and substations are in good shape, he said, the repairs translated into only small gains in households served.
“In a normal situation, that would take care of about 80 percent of our problem,” he said.
But power remained out to about 60,000 WWP customers in Spokane County, Redmond said, with another 5,000 to 10,000 still in the dark in surrounding areas. The number had peaked at 100,000 Tuesday afternoon.
WWP serves about 280,000 electrical customers in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Redmond said restoring feeder lines that carry power from substations into neighborhoods has become a nightmare.
Of 37 feeders out at the beginning of Wednesday, he said, 36 still were down at nightfall.
Crews would fix one line and move on to another, only to have the first trip off again, Redmond said.
“We’re having a hard time evaluating why some feeders just aren’t staying on,” he said.
In some cases, more ice is falling on power lines. In others, tree limbs freed of ice by warming temperatures are springing into lines or thawed lines are snapping back into the trees.
“Nothing is as simple as it looked to start with,” said Redmond, who expected to spend his second night without power at his home Wednesday.
He said the company’s 13 repair crews will be reinforced with workers and equipment from West At Inland Power & Light Co., Kris Mikkelsen said 5,500 members of the cooperative were still in the dark as the sun went down.
Most of those should have service restored by Friday, she said, with the last stuck until Saturday or Sunday.
Mikkelsen said work in Greenbluff went well, but almost nothing was accomplished around Newman Lake.
New crews were joining Inland’s today, she said.
Vera Water & Power Co. and Modern Electric Water Co., which serve the Spokane Valley, reported substantial progress, but said getting to the few hundred customers still without electricity would take a few days.
Vera General Manager Kevin Wells said some lines to isolated areas were completely shattered.
“It just becomes time-consuming,” said Modern General Manager Mike Baker.
At one time, 6,000 of the utility’s 9,000 customers lost power, but the number was fewer than 1,000 by Wednesday morning, he said, adding “Some of them are in really nasty places to get to.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo 2 Graphics: 1. Delivering the power 2. Overhead residential service damage
MEMO: Changed from the Idaho edition