Power crews have work cut out for them as heavy winds down trees, power lines

Power crews across the Inland Northwest knew they would have their work cut out for them with high winds Wednesday — they just didn’t expect their day would start so early.

Wind took down trees and power lines across the region Wednesday, with some falling before the heavy winds picked up later in the day, but crews say they weren’t caught off guard.

“There’s some kind of unique anticipation for things like this,” said David Howell, who serves as director of operations at Avista. “They get excited. This is the work that they’ve trained to do.”

Both Avista and Inland Power had trained crews on call and on high alert Wednesday, ready to respond to calls as they came in.

“Should anything happen, an outage happens in the middle of the night, they’re always on call and they’re expected to pick up that phone call and they’re out there no matter rain or shine, day or night,” said Inland Power business and development and community relations officer Andy Barth.

Barth says today’s crews know how important it is to be prepared, because they’ve been caught flat-footed before — by the 2015 windstorm that hit Spokane.

“2015 happened and just caught everyone off guard, not just Inland Power, and now we are making sure that our line crews know what to do, they are ready to go,” said Barth.

But crews can’t be everywhere at once. When there are multiple outages, they have to prioritize. Howell said Avista will pull crews from other parts of the company’s coverage area.

“We look for the largest number of customers that we can restore in the shortest amount of time,” Barth said.

Howell reminded homeowners of the importance of having extra blankets, spare flashlights and batteries around the house. Barth said it’s extremely important to keep a safe distance from downed power lines.