Power goes out in Lassen County
She then explained that 2-3 hours after the initial outage, Pacific Gas and Electric Company made the decision to switch LMUD over to PG&E’s Hat Creek line, which has a much smaller capacity for transmitting power. Since the power LMUD gets from that line is acquired from PG&E, Boucher said it took the company a few hours to reroute the power to the PG&E’s Hat Creek line. At around 11:30 p.m. power was restored to roughly 6,000 customers.
Boucher said the load of power put on the Hat Creek line was too much, and that line eventually went down as well around 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
LMUD General Manager Frank Cady said the difference between the Caribou and the Hat Creek lines was like the difference between an extension cord and a string of Christmas lights. Boucher said the Hat Creek line simply couldn’t transmit the load for both LMUD and PG&E customers.
At this point, PG&E gave LMUD permission to transfer over to the Honey Lake Power Plant, which PG&E buys power from.
Boucher said from 4:30 to 11:00 a.m., LMUD and HLP tried to connect with each other, but due to mechanical and procedural problems, they never hooked up.
At the same time, the Hat Creek line was back up and running. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, 80 percent of LMUD’s customers were back online.
The power went down again around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, when PG&E decided to switch LMUD customers back to the Caribou line. The Caribou line failed again, and once again most of LMUD’s customers were switched back to the Hat Creek line and receiving power on early Wednesday morning.
Boucher said the Caribou line was repaired and all of LMUD’s customers were back online as of Wednesday, with all conditions restored to the way they were prior to Monday’s storm.
While the power was out, Susanville took on the form of a ghost town, as all of the schools and most of the businesses in town were closed. Safeway, Susanville Supermarket and Diamond Mountain Casino were among the only functioning businesses, and the Diamond Mountain Mini Mart was the only working gas station in town.
At times, the lines leading away from the mini mart extended beyond 50 cars, as people from all over the county stocked up on propane for generators and gasoline for their cars.
During the power outage, LMUD employees worked virtually non-stop, with some working almost 22 hours straight. Boucher explained they had people working though the night, both in the office and out on the line in the stormy conditions of the mountain.
“This has kind of been a wake-up call for everyone in the county,” Boucher said. “It was a long outage, and it showed just how much control Mother Nature still has over us.”
Boucher said, however, that the company still has a reliability rating of over 99 percent, and LMUD’s employees should be commended for their dedication and hard work.
Cady said LMUD’s system reliability is much better than it was 10 years ago.
“We used to have six or seven power outages from the winter, and some of them would sometimes last up to two days,” Cady said. “When I was kid, that was normal. We live in the mountains. This isn’t the Bay Area where you can just switch it over to one of 30 lines. We live in a vulnerable area for power.”
Cady went on to say that it’s a problem when people rely on power too much, and they can become unprepared.
“When the reliability goes up, people become more complacent, and they start taking power for granted, and they are no longer as prepared as they are supposed to be,” Cady said. “Unfortunately, the better we get (as an energy provider), the more we are relied upon and then more people forget about what could happen. This is a reminder of what could happen.”
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