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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Residents thankful Avista outages are dwindling after large blackouts, but infrastructure worries linger

UPDATED: Wed., June 30, 2021

Heather Rosentrater, senior vice president of energy delivery at Avista Corp., speaks with Gov. Jay Inslee during a tour of the energy-efficient Catalyst Building on Tuesday, May 25, 2021.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
Heather Rosentrater, senior vice president of energy delivery at Avista Corp., speaks with Gov. Jay Inslee during a tour of the energy-efficient Catalyst Building on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
By Greg Mason and Nico Portuondo The Spokesman-Review

Avista Utilities customers were relieved Wednesday that the utility had relatively few planned blackouts to conserve energy after off-and-on outages that came as record heat baked the area Tuesday. But for some, concerns about the utility’s capacity also lingered.

Fairwood resident Nicole Lee said that, starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, residents in the neighborhood had their power turned off for about an hour and a half, restored for a half-hour, and then turned off again for another hour and a half.

Lee said that happened three times before the power was fully restored at 8 p.m.

“It ended up getting to 85 degrees inside the house and it took until about 11 o’clock for it to cool down,” Lee said. “Turning us off is just going to make things worse when you turn it back on.”

After two days of tens of thousands without power, Avista expected fewer customers in Spokane and Lewiston to lose power Wednesday during the third day of rolling blackouts implemented by the company due to the heat wave.

The number of customers expected to lose power Wednesday was approximately 5,800, down from 22,000 expected Tuesday. The outages, planned to last approximately an hour, were scheduled from around noon to 8 p.m.

Avista said affected customers were notified ahead of the planned outages. Areas where outages were planned included north Spokane near Fairwood and Five Mile, northeast Spokane and Lewiston Orchards, according to the company.

The blackouts, in some instances, were more than just annoying, residents said.

Tom and Jane Lundy of Dartford, who had a similar experience to Lee on Tuesday, said they made sure to check on an 85-year-old neighbor who relied on fans to stay cool. The neighbor was OK.

Patty and Sanford Foster of Latah Valley were split on whether Avista deserved criticism, with Patty saying the heat wave was too extreme to prepare for, and Sanford saying the company needs to have infrastructure for any kind of weather event.

The couple said they experienced outages starting around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and they were warned in the morning.

Going forward, Lee said Avista needs to adapt to an ever-changing Spokane.

“They need to update this town; we’re growing faster than they can take it,” Lee said.

Some customers may experience more than one outage, with no less than one hour between outages, according to Avista.

For more information, visit myavista.com/outage as well as myavista.com/conserve.

The company has asked customers to conserve energy from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. through Friday.

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