Dark Christmas: Around 11,800 lost power in Truckee


Leslie Hsu Oh’s daughter peering out at the snow after losing power in their Donner Lake home.
Leslie Hsu Oh

Truckee saw some of the worst power outages in years during the historic December storm – with some losing power for up to eight days, according to Tahoe Donner residents.

Mother of four and Donner Lake resident Leslie Hsu Oh was left to fend for herself while her power was out for five days, from Dec. 13 to 17. She said her power has been on and off since then, with outages sometimes lasting up to 24 hours.

Hsu Oh’s husband was out of town during the five-day outage, leaving her to do the shoveling, fire-making, tire chains, and keeping the pipes from freezing — all on top of caring for four little children.

“The fireplace… gave us a lot of problems,” Hsu Oh said, joking that she had almost burned down the house after a log which was on fire had rolled out of her fireplace.

The family dealt with the multi-day outage by using their camping equipment — breaking out their headlamps and camp stove in order to cook meals.

Also during the outages, many local businesses and neighbors came together to help one another.

Real estate salesperson Christy Morrison, of Corcoran Global Living, said that the brokerage provided clients with snow shovels, gave away a snowblower, and helped residents start their gas fireplaces. Those at the brokerage also gave away pies on Christmas Eve.

“(We) just made sure we were there for everyone as the weather and power outages created their challenges,” Morrison said.

Morrison hasn’t received any calls from clients wanting to sell their homes after the power outages, and she believes that it would take more than a record-breaking snowstorm for newcomers to make the decision to sell their homes.

“I am sure people started questioning their decision on buying here in the mountains,” Morrison said.


The outages began on Dec. 13 due to damage caused by snow, ice, and falling trees and debris, according to Steven Poncelet, public information director with the Tahoe Donner Public Utility District.

By the morning of Dec. 13, the district had over 20 power poles down and significant damage to equipment across Truckee.

The next day the number of outages was approximately 3,500 customers in the Truckee region.

Crews worked day and night to restore power, but the NV Energy transmission outage increased impacted customers to half of Truckee. Roseville Electric also responded to provide mutual aid request with a crew of 10 people.

While there were still a large number of outages, an even larger, second wave of the winter storm arrived on Dec. 22, continuing to add to the damage.

After Christmas Day, all of central and western Truckee were out of power for approximately 12 hours, said Poncelet.

The utility district was able to restore many customers during the day, with all customers power back on after NV Energy’s restoration late that evening.

After significant snowfall overnight, district crews ran into blocked roads and struggled with access to restore power to all customers, apart from those with damage to the customer-owned secondary connections, by the end of the day.

The peak number of customers losing their power was during NV Energy’s transmission outages on Dec. 26, with 11,800 customers out of power.

“(We) want to thank our customers for their patience during this historic storm system, and to thank our crews and staff for their tireless and diligent work during very trying conditions,” Poncelet said.

Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User