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EWEB Examines Its Response To Ice Storm, Invites Input

David Geitgey Sierralupe

After one of the most severe ice storms in decades, Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) is reviewing lessons learned in its response to a major outage.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.  

Mid-December’s storm saw up to 24,000 customers without power…some for hours, some more than a week. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Utility truck navigates Spencers Butte area after ice storm.

EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood says at its peak…

“…we had 24 outside crews to supplement the 5 crews that EWEB had.  They worked 18 hour days, for 8 or 9 days.”  

Harwood says EWEB is now exploring smart meters, which they’re testing with some employees.

“They’re essentially digital meters that have a 1-watt radio in them, and they can communicate with the utility," he explains.  

"So when someone’s power goes out, the last thing that meter does is send a message to EWEB. Right now, we don’t know if someone has no power until they call us.” 

As to outage prevention, Harwood says many people want aggressive tree trimming near power lines, but then as weather warms up…

“…our tree crews take a lot of guff from customers, because a lot of people whose trees are getting trimmed, they don’t like their trees being trimmed.” 

EWEB says December’s outage cost more than $4.2 million, which they’ll try to get FEMA to cover.

A January 9th open house at EWEB invites people to discuss the latest ice storm, and learn more about smart meters.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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