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Avista restores power to nearly all customers

A falling tree took out utility lines near the corner of Bemis and Crown after Wednesday’s storm in Spokane. (Dan Pelle)
A falling tree took out utility lines near the corner of Bemis and Crown after Wednesday’s storm in Spokane. (Dan Pelle)

Local power companies made more progress restoring power on Saturday, but hundreds still were without electricity by nightfall in north Spokane and northern Spokane County.

Nearly 60 Avista poles were damaged or toppled in Wednesday’s storm. Avista has fixed the main transmission lines and is now dealing with downed lines and broken poles in the neighborhoods, said Laurine Jue, Avista’s senior communications manager.

Sometimes crews can spend eight to 10 hours on one repair and only restore power to a dozen or so customers, Jue said.

“I’m hoping the customers will understand the magnitude of the effort it has taken to repair the system,” she said.

In Deer Park, crews often have to remove trees to get equipment in to make repairs in sometimes treacherous terrain, Jue said. In Spokane some of the broken power poles are in people’s backyards, making it difficult to install new ones.

“We’re having to hand dig the holes because we can’t get the equipment in,” Jue said. “It’s just labor intensive and tedious work.”

All Avista crews are on the job and out-of-area contract crews also are helping, Jue said.

As of Saturday evening about 98 percent of the 40,000 customers who originally lost power had it back. Jue said she hoped most of those remaining would have the lights on by the end of the day, but some might have to wait until today.

“We’re working as hard and as fast as we can,” she said.

Meanwhile, Inland Power and Light reported more than 400 customers still without power. Northern Lights Electric was reporting about 1,800 outages mostly in Bonner and Boundary counties. As of Saturday morning there were 700 Pend Oreille County Public Utility District customers without power.

It may be some time before power is restored to the Riverside Village mobile home park, where more than 30 homes and the electrical system were heavily damaged. The Red Cross continues to operate a shelter at the Riverside High School for those without power. Residents can stay the night and get meals there.

Donations of clothing and nonperishable food items can be brought to the New Hope Resource Center at 4211 E. Colbert Road.