Storms that have, so far, brought snow, ice, rain and wind have kept Puget Sound Energy crews on the job in some cases for 40 hours at a stretch.
For Puget Sound Energy, it’s been the storm that won’t stay down and the lines that won’t stay up.
The storm, which has kept crews in the field continuously for more than five days, has just kept reinventing itself, shifting from snow to sleet to ice to wind — and keeping some crews working 40-hour shifts.
Flashback to 4 a.m. Thursday morning, when things were looking relatively good for PSE. Though 160,000 customers had been out of power after the first heavy punch, crews managed to whittle that down to just 15,000 customers, said Andy Wappler, a company spokesman.
Then the ice storm hit.
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By late Thursday, that 15,000 had ballooned to 280,000 without power. PSE called in crews from seven states and British Columbia.
PSE collaborated with the National Weather Service to try to anticipate those areas that might be hardest hit. On Sunday, the weather service gave the utility more bad news: High winds would likely cause a few more outages.
As the storm developed, some downed lines had to be repaired twice or even three times, said Roger Thompson, a PSE spokesman. The utility had 900 people in 250 crews in the field Sunday along with about a thousand others in offices, from interns to the CEO.
And Wappler, a meteorologist by training, has found himself a jack-of-all-trades, advising the company on where the storm might hit next.
With the earlier ice storm causing more outages, some crews stayed in the field for 40 hours before taking a mandatory break. When a crew drives from one area to another, everyone but the driver might catch eight or so minutes of sleep, Thompson said.
“These guys are animals,” he said. “They’re a different breed of cat; they really are.”
Lark Turner: 206-464-2761 or firstname.lastname@example.org