Remote locations, snowy conditions slow power repair
INCLINE VILLAGE – Thursday afternoon three of the six major transmitter lines that bring power to the North and West shore remained damaged from storms that pummeled the region last weekend.
Karl Walquist, public information officer for Sierra Pacific Power, said that six crews were working to fix the 60,000-volt line along the Truckee River between Truckee and Squaw Valley and the 60,000-volt line that runs between Tahoe City and Kings Beach.
Another 13-person crew was working to fix the 120,000-volt line that brings power from Carson Valley to Incline. Two of the crews working in the field arrived from Las Vegas.
“It is extremely hard to get to the powerlines and it is extremely difficult work,” said Sierra Pacific repairman, Jed Russel who was working on the line between Truckee and Squaw.
The electrical situation, while difficult, is better than earlier in the week.
“At one point all six lines were down,” said Faye Andersen, a public information officer for Sierra Pacific Power.
With two of its main lines down Tahoe City and Tahoe Vista continue to run off power provided by the only other line that runs into the West Shore, a 60,000-volt line from Squaw Valley fed by power from a line originating at a substation in Martis Valley. Meanwhile Kings Beach and Incline have been receiving power from a single 60,000-volt line also originating at a substation in Martis Valley, SPP officials said.
The availability of electricity in Incline has been particularly strained because the only source of its power is from two 14,000-volt large distribution lines running between Kings Beach and Incline.
Walquist said crews are working around the clock to access and repair the Carson Valley to Incline Village line. Damage to the line is in a backcountry area below above Hobart Lake below the Mount Rose Summit. The remote location of the line and the new snow have inhibited access to the damage.
“You have to go in four miles on snowshoes or with a Sno-Cat or snowmobile to access these lines for fixing,” Walquist said. “The area is so inaccessible we can’t get the big trucks that dig holes in there … which means we might have to be digging new holes (for the poles) by hand. It’s back-breaking work to get in there and get these fixed.”
Walquist said a crew of 13 individuals are currently working to access and fix the damaged lines – 11 Sierra Pacific employees and two Sno-Cat operators from Diamond Peak, Jason Rydd and Richard Allen.
“(Tuesday night) we delivered a Snow-Cat Kassbohrer 300 and an operator to run it,” said Diamond Peak ski resort manager Ed Youmans.
Rydd, the owner of Kingvale Tubing who previously worked as the head of the grooming department at Diamond Peak, said he spent 11 hours cutting trail toward the line Wednesday.
The Diamond Peak Snow-Cat Rydd and Allen operated is normally used by the ski resort for grooming, but is currently being used to cut a road through the snow for SPP equipment to make it to the powerline.
“It was pretty hard work, pretty aggressive all day,” Rydd said. Rydd said that while the terrain was “not too steep” the snowpack remained consistently around 5 feet. Rydd described a couple of the slopes he cut across as “prime avalanche faces.”
Rydd said there are six poles that need to be replaced.
Richard Allen replaced Rydd to continue cutting access on Thursday. Rydd said he estimated the Sierra Pacific crew would reach the access area before Thursday evening. SPP officials anticipated the repair work on the line to be complete by late Friday or early Saturday.
Public Information Officer Walquist said short power outages, like the one in Incline Wednesday afternoon was due to circuit overloading on the small power lines coming from Kings Beach.
“The lines were being taxed by demands beyond their capacity to handle – like a fuse in your house, if it get overloaded it shuts down,” he said.
Walquist said unlike a fuse in a house the power company can’t just flip a switch to turn the power back on. The power must be phased in slowly, explaining why some neighborhoods may have received power sooner than others.
SPP continues to encourage energy conservation to prevent future power outages until the main transmitter line for Incline Village is fixed.
Tips on conserving power can be found under the conservation heading on the Sierra Pacific Power Web page: http://www.sierrapacific.com
Diamond Peak is currently closed to conserve power but is expected to open Saturday or as soon as the power line is fully repaired.
The Incline Village Recreation Center is open but has reduced hours to conserve energy until the main line is repaired. Reduced hours are:
Reporter Patricia Hickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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