PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Public Utility District workers are preparing for the windstorms expected in the autumn on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The most common cause of power outages are tree branches falling on electrical power lines, said Will O’Donnell, Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD) communications manager.
The PUD has taken preventative measures throughout the year, spending close to $750,000 on tree limb removal for branches that were in danger of falling on power lines, O’Donnell said.
The Port Townsend Public Works department also has taken the steps of removing unstable limbs and is working to ensure that stormwater systems stay clear in case of heavy rain, said Brian Reid, streets, stormwater and sewer operations manager.
Small outages have been reported to the PUD so far this fall, but the amount is normal to low for the area, O’Donnell said.
Snowfall this winter is predicted to be low across the Pacific Northwest, with the winter being warmer and rainier than normal, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
A possible moderate winter hasn’t stopped the teams from preparing their resources.
“We prepare for everything,” Reid said. “We have extra chains for our chainsaws, the saws are gassed up and ready to go.”
Both teams agree that people should have the following items on hand in case of a power outage:
• Battery operated radio.
• Food and water.
• Spare batteries.
“We tell people to be prepared to have their power out for up to three days,” O’Donnell said.
When a major storm is known to be approaching, additional preparations are recommended:
• Have enough food and water for up to three days per person.
• Keep cellphones and external batteries charged.
• Fuel vehicles.
• Have fuel for generator.
• Wood for fireplaces/wood-burning stove.
“Big windstorms can come in at any time and that’s what we have to worry about,” O’Donnell said.
Among these material preparations, O’Donnell recommended keeping in touch with neighbors and family members throughout a long outage.
“The biggest most important thing is stay away from downed power lines,” O’Donnell said. “Call the PUD or 9-1-1 if you see a downed power line and assume all power lines are live.”
The last major windstorm was last December, where electrical power was knocked out for thousands across both Jefferson and Clallam counties, that took the local PUDs several hours to restore power back to all their customers.
The snowstorms in February also knocked out power for several homes and made it difficult for some families to even leave their homes.
More information regarding emergency preparedness can be found at www.co.jefferson.wa.us/760/Emergency-Preparedness.
Jefferson County PUD customers can report an outage through its SmartHub app or by calling 360-385-5800. During a large outage, the PUD may not be able to answer a person’s call immediately, but in situations like that, the outages are normally known about, O’Donnell said.
To report an outage to Clallam County PUD, phone 360-452-9771 or 1-800-542-7859.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].