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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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March 3, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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March 3, 2010
 

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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, Mar. 3, 2010 1B RE GI ONAL Si ol/'m L,,ai F f"! ! Bill Era.  's: Braving the weather to bring ba i powe" Shannon Morrow Sports Editor Sports@plumasnews.com When the power goes out and most of us are looking for candles and batteries, teams of Pacific Gas and Electric personnel are scrambling to get electricity restored as soon as possible. It's not uncommon to lose power in our small mountain communities, where high winds and snow loads often bring branches and trees down on top of power lines. As soon as that happens, PG&E relies on phone calls from customers to notify it of the Qutage. These service calls go to one of three call centers in Sacramento, San Jose or Fresno, and the information is collected at a data center in the Bay Area. PG&E can tell a lot about an outage from the extent of customer calls. For example, if all the reports are from customers on the same trans- former, and no one else on that circuit has called, then PG&E can infer what level of outage it is dealing with. PG&E also has remote sens- ing equipment on key circuit breakers and at substations. Once there is a significant loss of power, information flows through an outage management system at the main data center, which then activates local responses. For incidents in Plumas County, the Division Operator of the North Valley Division in Chico normally dispatches local crews. A mechanic inspects a brand-new line truck, which is used for digging and setting power poles. Photo by Shannon Morrow There is also a separate operation emergency center in Chico that is opened during storms or any other events that would likely knock out power. From these communication centers in Chico, local crews are dispatched and time estimates are given for when the electricity will be restored. At the most local level, PG&E has storm rooms in most communities. These small facilities serve as map rooms and logistics centers for the local crews on the ground who are most familiar with the immediate area. Once the power goes out, Cal Moss, a PG&E crew foreman, teaches about the various tools used to repair power lines. Photo by Shannon Morrow PG&E has first responders, called trouble men, who are dispatched to the problem area. With special trucks and equipment, trouble men are trained to find the cause of the outage and restore power. Trouble men often go out individually, but at times two trouble men are dispatched. When working as a team, two or more trouble men can fix the problem much faster than one on his own. If the cause of an outage is beyond what trouble men can fix, they call in the appropri- ate equipment and personnel for each situation. "There is a huge amount of communication during a storm event," said Paul Moreno, a spokesperson for PO&E. "Much-of the eni'e  company is mobilized." A good example of this happened five weeks ago, when a series of heavy snow- storms did major damage to power lines in the Bucks Lake area. "The conditions up there were totally unreal," said Cal Moss, the PG&E crew fore- man in Quincy. "I've been up here 15 years, and that was the worst I've seen it." Many fallen trees had taken out multiple power lines, leaving Bucks Lake without electricity for approximately a week. Unable to access the area with its regular trucks and equipment, PG&E relied on several snow cats to reach the various sites. Without bucket trucks, much of the work had to be done by climbing poles with heavy equipment. Several PG&E crews were called in from out of the area, including a mobile general construction crew. PG&E also contracted with expert tree fallers and snow cat operators to get the job done. Jeff Iverson, a resident of Bucks Lake, witnessed When storms drive most people toward shelter, that's when linemen are often called out into the elements. Photo by Bill Bias High winds and heavy snow can cause trees to fall across power lines, as occurred in the Bucks Lake area about a month ago. Photo by Bill Bias the coming and going of approximately 40 personnel each day. "They really stepped up to the plate to take care of the couple hundred people who were out (of power)," said Iverson. "It was a major effort they put in to support a fairly small community. They were work- ing in adverse conditions up there." In addition to all the manpower on site, PG&E also had a host of support personnel coordinating lodg- ing, meals and other logistics for the crews. "These operations require a huge amount of detail," explained Moreno. "We have a large number of people who know so much. Their entire careers have made them so familiar with things, they're incredibly valuable." A mess of fallen trees and downed wire lie tangled in deep snow. Even with expert crews on hand, it can take days to restore power. Photo by Bill Bias Pacific Gas and Electric employee Juan Lopez points out the peninsula on Lake Almanor, which is shown.in even greater detail on the wall behind him. These giant maps identify power circuits, substations, transformers and many other details. Photo by Shannon Morrow ?