Power outages give some a dim Christmas

Whidbey Islanders braced for a predicted winter storm Friday, following a windy, and for some, dark Christmas.

More than a thousand homes on Whidbey Island lost power on Christmas as high winds played havoc with power lines.

In Coupeville 455 customers in the Madrona Way area along Penn Cove lost power at 7:54 a.m. Wednesday when a tree limb fell on a power line. A local Puget Sound Energy serviceman was able to knock the limb off the line with a “hot stick,” and service was restored in a little more than an hour, at 9:05 a.m., according to Puget Sound Energy spokesperson Dorothy Bracken.

Oak Harbor residents got off easy in the Christmas Day storm, with just one outage affecting two customers on East Polnell Road. Their power was restored in less than an hour.

In Freeland 650 homes were without power for almost an hour between 9 and 10 a.m., before another tree limb was removed from the line.

The lights went out again in Freeland at 2:30 pm. when a power line was knocked down by a tree limb torn loose in the high wind. That outage, affecting 65 homes, required a crew from line service contractor Potelco, and power was not restored until 6 p.m.

Bracken said that was a normal response time for the severity of the problem.

While there was some concern earlier in 2002 when Puget Sound Energy eliminated its own line crews on the island in favor of contracting with Quanta Services, Bracken said they’ve got the island covered.

“Fifty percent of our line work is historically done by contractors,” she said. “The amount of work always exceeds the local capacity.”

When Puget Sound Energy knows bad weather is coming it tries to assign contract crews to local work projects so they will be closer in the event of an outage, Bracken said.

The power company was ready for the high winds that hit the area Friday, but by the Whidbey News-Times afternoon deadline there were no reported power outages or trees down.

The National Weather Service is forecasting another storm to sweep through Puget Sound Sunday night, with 20 to 30 knot winds and three to five feet waves.

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