To say Sunday afternoon was windy is an understatement. Gusts of up to 53 mph were reported in Archuleta County, with a maximum wind speed of 39 mph. Winds brought down trees and branches in the area, causing property damage and power outages across both Archuleta and La Plata counties.
Four different outages, affecting 34 customers, were reported in Archuleta County Sunday afternoon. All four outages were attributed to windblown trees and branches taking down power lines.
Steve Gregg, manager of operations with La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), said the majority of trees that came down during the gusts were weak trees, rather than dead ones. LPEA crews perform regular tree trimming and maintenance operations along power lines, removing any dead trees encountered. While dead trees are relatively easy to spot, vetting out the weak ones along a line is challenging.
“It’s just hard tell,” Gregg told The SUN, adding that, often, weak trees appear healthy from the outside.
Mike Alley, Pagosa Springs district manger for the cooperative, stated that Archuleta County crews began getting calls reporting downed power lines around 2 p.m. Sunday and worked to restore power until 11:30 p.m. that night.
One of the lines reported was knocked down by a windblown tree in Lost Valley of the San Juans. The downed line was burning into a tree and was “hot” when LPEA crews arrived — meaning electricity was still surging through the line even though it was no longer on the pole.
Alley informed that if anyone comes across a downed power line, they need to immediately call LPEA to report it. Stay away from the line and do not attempt to drive over it or move it, he cautioned, as that line is dangerous.
Gregg added that it is important to contact LPEA if you come across any sort of downed line or cable. The cable may be for phone or television — but let the experts verify that.
“We respond to every down line,” Gregg stated. “If you see a down line, call it in. You never know what it is.”
After Archuleta crews restored all lines and power within the county, they were dispatched to neighboring La Plata County to assist crews there.
La Plata County residents suffered many more electrical outages than those experienced in the Pagosa area, with winds ravaging several tree-dense Bayfield and Lemon Dam areas. Reported wind gusts of 49 mph and wind speeds of 38 mph hit that region hard.
Reports of outages started coming in at 1 p.m. Sunday and crews were kept busy restoring lines in remote locations until 2:30 a.m. Monday morning.
According to a press release sent out by LPEA Sunday afternoon, trees and branches caused “numerous scattered outages affecting nearly 700” LPEA customers in 21 separate locations.
LPEA stated that an additional 2,000 customers were affected by “temporary ‘blinks’ as the system in various areas temporarily cut power in a preventative safety measure. When the system detects no problem with the line, power will automatically be restored.”
Though the intense winds kept LPEA crews busy and did not make repairing lines easy, luckily, no major electrical damages were reported as having been caused by the gusts.
June 5 outage
Another recent outage, however, was not weather-related. Last Thursday, June 5, shortly after 9 a.m. “a large truck pulling a backhoe snagged … an overhead power line, pulling it down and breaking an adjacent pole in the vicinity of 574 E. Apache, Pagosa Springs, knocking 297 LPEA customers out of power,” the cooperative reported.
Crews were able to restore power to 143 customers by 10:39 a.m. All power was restored by 7 p.m. that night, with some repairs being completed sooner.
To report an outage or downed power line, call LPEA at 247-5786 or use SmartHub, an online way to communicate with the cooperative using a computer, iOS or Android device. You can sign up for the online hub, see real time data regarding outages, and find an online checklist of what to do in case of a power outage at lpea.coop/outage/outage_hotline.html.