Avista thanks customers for patience during worst outage since 1 - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Avista thanks customers for patience during worst outage since 1996 ice storm

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SPOKANE, Wash. - Avista is extending a heartfelt thank you to customers for their patience during restoration efforts in the wake of the worst storm damage to its electric system since Ice Storm in 1996. Over a four-day period, Avista crews from throughout the region, along with contract crews, worked around-the-clock to restore power to nearly 40,000 customers who lost electricity.

Now that electricity has been restored to all its customers, Avista is getting a clearer picture of the extent of the devastation. Preliminary numbers show that more than 120 poles had to be replaced to rebuild the backbone of the transmission and distribution system after high winds toppled trees onto power lines and snapped power poles Wednesday afternoon. That’s a significant increase from the 60 poles that were initially identified immediately after the storm.

“I’m proud of the dedication and commitment of our employees who always rise to the challenge during any outage situation. Over the past several days they worked tirelessly on behalf of our customers. We’re also grateful for the assistance we received from the five contractors who provided additional manpower to help speed up our recovery and restoration efforts,” said Avista Utilities President Dennis Vermillion.

Beyond the electric crews who were on the front lines replacing poles, restringing wire and rebuilding the electric system, there were countless employees working behind the scenes providing support to those in the field:

  • Dispatchers worked around the clock to prioritize work and dispatch crews to areas of highest need. They managed more than 13,700 outage reports from customers that were rolled up into jobs and prioritized.
  • Because each outage situation was different, two-person “advance teams” went on location to assess damage and determine in advance what materials were needed for each job. This meant crews arrived onsite with the right equipment and materials, saving time and working efficiently.
  • Supply Chain and Warehouse employees worked around the clock to provide materials needed for repairs. Preliminary numbers show:
    • In Spokane alone, at least 86 wood distribution poles were replaced.
    • 40 transmission poles were issued across Avista’s service territory.
    • Crews used more than 13,000 feet of conductor wire to replace downed power lines.
  • General Foremen and Operations Managers orchestrated how to allocate Avista and contract crews, redeploy resources as they completed work and made sure employees were taking rest periods to work safely.
    • It was difficult to find lodging for contract and out-of-town crews because two international conventions were underway and every hotel/motel room was booked within 60 miles of Spokane. At times, Avista used buses to shuttle crews back and forth from Spokane to Pullman to sleep.
  • Call Center Representatives worked around the clock answering thousands of customer calls, taking outage reports and providing information to customers about expected restoration times.
  • External and Internal Communications kept the information flowing to customers, the media and employees, providing timely and relevant updates.

“It’s an incredible logistical challenge. As we begin to tally the numbers of people and amounts of material needed to make repairs and get power flowing back to our customers as quickly and safely as possible, one thing is clear -- it is a monumental achievement,” said Vice President of Energy Delivery Don Kopczynski.

“I heard that as electricity was restored to the last group of customers in the Inchelium area near Colville, neighbors stood in the street cheering,” added Kopczynski. “That kind of appreciation is why Avista’s employees work around the clock to keep the lights on for our customers.”

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