One down, one to go: power utility readies for bitter cold

It comes on the heels of a windstorm

High winds across the county temporarily knocked out power to thousands of customers, but as of Wednesday, power had largely been restored as Grays Harbor Public Utility District work crews repaired outages across the county.

“We’ve still got some small ones that they’re catching up on,” PUD Communications Director Ian Cope said. “The large scale outages, they were able to take care of overnight.”

The windstorm was not unexpected, though the scale of it was quite broad, Cope said.

“That strength of wind, on the Washington coast, in January, is nothing unusual,” Cope said. “For it to blow through and impact pretty much the entire county, coast to county line, was a little more than we expected.”

Gusts at 50-60 mph aren’t unusual, Cope said; that’s life on the Washington coast. The broad impact of the winds, however, was.

“We had some areas of pretty extensive tree damage up north,” Cope said. “They had a lot of fallen trees.”

Major outages occurred in places like North Beach, Wishkah, and near Lake Quinault, alongside many smaller outages. A major outage is defined by the PUD as anything above 50 customers being affected, Cope said.

“Combined, we were talking about some pretty significant area,” Cope said. “It took some time. We had five crews and they were all out in the field.”

Crews worked through “miserable” weather for extended shifts in order to keep the lights on, Cope said, knocking out trouble spots all over the county.

“It’s just … five crews, a few dozen outages, it’s gonna take some time to get to,” Cope said. “They can only be in one place at one time.”

Ice time is not nice time

But wait, there’s more.

Beginning this Thursday, temperatures will begin a crash-dive into the abyssal depths, seeking to freeze the marrow in our bones. The National Weather Service forecast shows temperatures will fall below freezing beginning Thursday night and experience lows in the 20s all week.

“There’s a little lull between the windstorm and the freezing conditions,” Cope said. “It doesn’t happen as often here for ice to be a significant outage threat but it can impact them.”

Frozen branches, frozen trees, ice on the lines and icy conditions on the roads — both for work crews and for drivers striking power poles — can all affect power for customers.

“We’ve seen it in the past, if you get ice on the lines, it can cause issues,” Cope said. “If the roads are icy, it’s going to take them time to get there.”

Cope recommended making sure outage kits were ready for inclement weather and power outages.

Contact Senior Reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or