The impacts of a coastal ice storm, several car versus pole collisions, and a handful of significant, widespread wind events contributed to higher than normal power outage numbers for the Grays Harbor PUD in 2021. In a presentation to the utility Board of Commissioners, the PUD reported that 2021 system reliability numbers were driven by outages that impacted 102,091 customers, interrupting power for 368,833 hours – both significant increases over 2020 totals.
At the center of those increases were weather events and vehicle collisions that impacted PUD customers for extended periods of time. Of the 312 major outage events in 2021, two dozen accounted for 66% of the impacted customers and 82% of the hours in which customers were without power. Those 2021 events included an ice storm in February, wind storms in October and December, and a handful of car accidents that brought down PUD poles.
“Even the best built system can be impacted by weather and unavoidable events. At times like those, you really appreciate the skill and drive of the crews and staff that respond to outages and get the power back on as safely and quickly as possible,” said Board President Jon Martin.
In keeping with historical trends, 65% of the 2021 outages could be traced to tree, wind or storm related causes. It is for this reason that the PUD invests significantly in vegetation management aimed at keeping tree growth around power lines under control and removing trees that may threaten utility equipment.
“Think how bad things would be if we chose to let trees grow up next to our poles or hang out over the lines,” said Board Secretary Dave Timmons. “This is why we must continue to be proactive and keep the areas around power lines as clear as possible.”
In addition to the strong response by utility operations crews, 2021 saw a decrease in the number of outages related to failed equipment, a point of pride for the Board Vice President Arie Callaghan.
“Thanks to great design work and regular maintenance, we saw a decrease in outages related to nearly every equipment category,” said Callaghan. “That shows just how hard our engineers and crews work to keep the system up and running for our customers.”