Power crews work to turn the lights back on after winds and fires turn them off

Think you've had a rough week? As wild weather and wildfires shorted out or knocked down power lines, Sierra Pacific Power Co. line crews have hustled to restore power almost nonstop since Wednesday.

Crews from Carson, Reno and Yerington have worked long shifts with little rest to keep residents' lamps lit and air conditioners humming.

It started with record-breaking high temperatures on Wednesday.

"When it's really hot, people turn their air conditioning up as high as they can to get their houses as cold as they can," said Wes Wiens, Sierra Pacific district manager. "That overloaded the fuses in Carson."

That was only the beginning.

"Then Friday night that horrendous wind in Stagecoach broke out seven poles," he said of the microbursts estimated at 50 to 70 mph that also damaged or destroyed several homes in Stagecoach.

The poles carried 60,000-volt power lines with 12,000-volt lines underneath that provided power to about 5,000 people between Stagecoach and Dayton.

With rerouting, most customers were back online by 4 p.m., however, about 200 people were in the dark all night until a pole was replaced and rewired. About 18 line crew members worked through the night.

They had only a few hours to rest before another wind storm took out 11 poles in Fernley between 5 and 6 p.m. Saturday. The last of the 6,000 customers affected had power restored Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

The same weather fronts that brought high winds carried dry thunderstorms that ignited numerous fires in the region.

The giant Gate Complex fire west of Walker had power company line crews hopping again Sunday and Monday.

"The fire down in Walker took out 1.8 miles of distribution line," Weins said.

About 1,000 to 1,200 people are out of power and the fire command center has been running off generators.

Restoring the line will have to wait until the safety of Sierra Pacific's workers can be ensured. Monday, they worked to install a giant generator, obtained from the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

Weins expected the generator to be up and running late Monday or early Tuesday.

"That will make life easier for the command post," he said.

Once the terrain is safe, crews will have 50 poles to replace by hand and with helicopters to set the poles. That could take one to two weeks to complete.

"We're really keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we don't have any more winds and fire taking poles out."


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