EWEB Examines Its Response To Ice Storm, Invites Input

Dec 31, 2016

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.  

Icy power pole and lines, Eugene.
Credit David Geitgey Sierralupe / Flickr.com

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

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

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.