Monday Nov 22 2010
Downed tree limbs from snowstorm challenge PG&E power restoration bid
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
More than a foot of snow that fell in the Placer County high country over the weekend is causing power outages for some residents in rural, mountain areas. While Auburn had zero power outages at 10 a.m. this morning, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was attending to the sometimes-difficult task of locating where snow-laden branches had fallen on lines and getting crews to restore electricity. In all, 1,900 PG&E customers were dealing with power outages this morning, including about 20 households in isolated Michigan Bluff, about 10 miles east of Foresthill. Stan Ekedahl, outside plant manager for Foresthill’s Sebastian phone service, said fallen trees were strewn across the one road in and out of the mountain community. “Someone said it looked like a bomb went off,” Ekedahl said. “It’s a mess, with a lot of trees down.” With the aerial cable down to the community, Sebastian was working to restore phone service this morning using a back-up generator and a temporary cable link. In the Foresthill town center, outside the Sebastian office, about 8 inches of snow had fallen since late Friday. Trees started falling on lines in the Michigan Bluff area at about 11 a.m. Sunday, Ekedahl said. Brian Swanson, PG&E spokesman, said the Foresthill Divide was the hardest hit area in Placer County, with 600 customers lacking power this morning. The count in other areas was Colfax (200), Alta (400), Baxter (100), Dutch Flat (300), Emigrant Gap (150) and Gold Run (150). Auburn, which had 2.27 inches of rain over the weekend, was chilly both Saturday and Sunday, with a downpour for much of the Placer High game Friday turning the playing field into a mud bog. Alta’s Mike Crum, a weather watcher for KCRA 3 and Colfax Record, said 28 inches of the white stuff had fallen and stuck since it started snowing on Friday. It was still snowing late this morning, he reported. With temperatures never dropping below 31 degrees at his home in Alta – which is 3,700 feet above sea level – the snow that clung to tree branches and sent them to the ground was the heavy, moisture-laden “Sierra cement,” Crum noted. Crum’s car missed being hit by one big tree branch by an inch. Three other branches fell in his driveway by this morning. “They’re still snapping,” he said. The number to call if a tree branch drops onto power lines is 9-1-1, Swanson said. People should be very careful around downed trees or branches because of the possibility a live wire could have come down too, he said. Nevada and El Dorado counties were even harder hit than Placer, with a total of almost 14,000 customers in blackout mode this morning.