Prepare for Stormy Weather, Possible Outages

September 27, 2013 – As forecasters predict a series of storms to bring rain and wind to Columbia County this weekend, Columbia River People’s Utility District (PUD) is encouraging customers to prepare for stormy weather and the possibility of power outages.

“Re-stock your emergency kit so you’ll be comfortable at home even if the lights go out,” said PUD Engineering & Operations Manager Steve Hursh.

Hursh oversees a year-round maintenance program designed to ensure that the PUD’s distribution system is safe and reliable. The PUD builds and upgrades power lines to meet demand as loads increase, and places sections of power lines underground in outage-prone areas. Also, tree-trimming crews work year-round to trim or remove trees that are growing too near our power lines, to reduce the chance of outages.

Even with proper maintenance not all outages can be prevented, particularly when it comes to bad weather. About 70% of the outages in the PUD’s service area are caused by trees and severe weather. Wet, windy weather can uproot trees and blow limbs onto power lines. Severe winter storms can bring snow and ice that coat trees and power lines. The more trees there are between your home and the substation, the greater the chance that you’ll experience an outage during stormy weather.

An early fall storm can be particularly damaging, said Hursh, because the leaves haven’t yet fallen from the many maple, alder, and other deciduous trees in the area, which makes the trees heavier and increases the risk that wind will topple them or break limbs.

“We’re always working to provide you safe and reliable electric service,” said Hursh. “But you should prepare for outages anyway.”

How to prepare for outages

Hursh recommends that customers prepare for storms, outages, and other emergencies by following the guidelines from the American Red Cross for emergency preparedness. The Red Cross recommends having at least a three-day supply of canned or packaged foods that don’t require cooking, at least one gallon of water per person per day, flashlights with spare batteries, and supplies of prescription medications and other personal items. For a complete list, visit

What to do if you see a downed line

Hursh also reminds customers to stay away from downed power lines.

“Never touch a downed line, or get close to one,” he said. “Always assume downed lines are energized and extremely dangerous. Call the PUD immediately at (503) 397-1844 if you see one.”

If the lights go out

If you lose power at home, you should take the following steps:

  • Call the PUD at (503) 397-1844 to report your outage.
  • Turn on a front porch light. This helps PUD crews determine when power has been restored.
  • Turn down the thermostat, turn off electric heaters and shut off electric water heaters at the breaker panel. This helps reduce demand for electricity when service is restored, which can overload the system and cause another outage. Once power is restored, turn these items on again one at a time, in 15-minute intervals.
  • Unplug equipment with electronic circuitry, such as computers, televisions, cable boxes and microwaves. These items can be damaged by voltage fluctuations when power is restored. Plug these items back in when your lights have returned to their normal brightness.
  • Leave refrigerators and freezers closed. A refrigerator can keep food cold for a few hours and a freezer can keep food frozen for 2-3 days, but only if they are left closed.
  • Never use barbecues, generators or outdoor heaters indoors. Only use them outside, in well-ventilated areas.

Use standby generators safely

If you use a standby generator to power your home during outages, test it before an outage occurs to make sure it works properly. Only use it with a transfer switch that will prevent the generator from back-feeding electricity onto the power lines, where it could seriously injure or kill the linemen who are working to restore power. The PUD rents and installs GenerLink transfer switches for customers. For more information about them, visit