Long lines form at the gas station in Westwood Monday, Jan. 9 as news that timeline on power outage is uncertain. Photos by Susan Cort Johnson

Westwood prepared for past series of winter storms

Snow piles up once again along the roadways in Westwood following heavy rains Sunday, Jan. 8 that diminished pack but later turned to snow.

Westwood residents woke to heavy rain Sunday morning, Jan. 8 that had created a slick hard ice on sections of the streets. With warnings issued of possible flooding, the Westwood Fire Department prepared to respond to emergencies.

Forest Duerksen, fire chief, said volunteer firefighters remained at the station throughout the day to help as needed. They were JR Beavers, Hal Shetterly, Dan Dobyns, Joe Worthington and Bill DeRose. There was concern about Robber’s Creek rising, which could result in the flooding of the homes built along its banks.

Sand had been dropped off at the Lassen County road maintenance yard off County Road A-21 and 500 sandbags were prepared to address flooding issues, said Duerksen. The creek did not flood as expected, however bags were taken to the First Baptist Church at the corner of Fourth and Delwood Streets where snow dams were forcing water into the building. Also, bags were placed at the north door of Sierra Super Stop at Third and Ash Street to prevent water from entering the building.

When Westwood lost power at about 12:45 p.m. some calls came for help with generators to operate such necessary equipment as oxygen machines.

“Emergency calls were public assists for flooding and help with generators. I was expecting a lot more,” said Duerksen.

The volunteer firefighters did transport two residents who were without heat to the emergency shelter located at the Lassen County Fairgrounds in Susanville. Overall they responded to six calls.

Duerksen said the storm and power outage made him aware Westwood needs an emergency warming station where residents can go if they are unable to heat their house. He said Monday, Jan. 9; he was working on a suggestion from dispatch to contact the leaders of the Mormon Church in Clear Creek, which had power, to see if it could be opened as a warming station Tuesday, Jan. 10. Power to Lassen Municipal Utility District customers was restored late Monday night, Jan. 9; therefore a warming station was not needed. 

A site to use as a warming station is something Duerksen will pursue. He said cots and a generator would be needed as well.

A network of generators keeps the Westwood Community Services District operating efficiently during power outages. Water service is not disrupted because a diesel generator is installed at the springhouse. Randy Buchanan, the district’s general manager, said water is pumped from the spring to a 500,000-gallon tank so there is enough water for 12 hours before the generator needs to be activated to pump water.

There are also two generators at the sewer lift stations and one in the warehouse, which provides power to the supervisory control and data acquisition system that remotely monitors the water tank and sewer lift stations.

Buchanan said with all the rain and snow this year there could be problems with the sewer ponds. Water could breach the top of the outer ponds, which are part of the overflow system, not the sewer pond. Several years ago the district was directed by the state to address the problem and did a lot of work to stop water from draining into the ponds. However, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the ponds from filling if there is a lot of rain and snow.

The Westwood Unified School District closed the elementary and high school for two days due to the power outage, which was a result of damaged lines.