Utility district warns customers of possible power outages
The Truckee Donner Public Utility District is warning customers of possible prolonged power outages this summer due to extreme fire danger.
The district, which is dependent on the transmission of electricity from NV Energy, is part of Nevada’s wildfire safety deenergization program and will be similar to what other Tahoe area customers have experienced during PG&E’s shutoffs.
“This is about public safety and being prepared for prolonged power outages due to elevated wildfire risks and other emergencies,” said Brian Wright, the utility district’s general manager, in a news release. “TDPUD’s goal, in the event that NV Energy cuts power to Truckee, is to restore power as quickly and safely as possible and to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be as informed and prepared as possible.”
The outages, based on the length of the extreme wildfire danger period and the time required to visually inspect 100% of the electric system to safely restore power, will likely impact the district’s entire customer base for periods ranging from one day to a few days. Truckee Donner Public Utility District does not have control over the timing and duration of the outages, and, according to Public Information Officer Steven Poncelet, even an brief shut off of power means a day of inspecting the roughly 200 miles of the area’s system for district crews before power can be fully restored.
Poncelet added that weather events such as red flag warnings aren’t likely to trigger a shutoff from NV Energy, and that dry conditions and wind speeds upward of 50 mph are likely to warrant power being turned off.
Customers are encouraged to sign up for alerts from the district. Emails and texts will be sent out 24 to 48 hours ahead of a planned shutoff and again four to 12 hours before power is turned off.
The announcement of potential shutoffs comes as the area enters summer months with, according to Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Bill Seline, drier than usual fire fuels. NV Energy’s message of possible shutoffs has also left the district looking for short-term solutions, while scrambling to answer customer questions regarding water supplies, use of generators, and where power restoration will be prioritized.
“We’re kind of looking at this as short term,” said Poncelet. “What do we do for this fire season? And then long term, what does this community need to do, cause our expectation is, unfortunately, that this is the new normal.”
Poncelet said the district is most concerned about an extended shutoff during a fire event. If a catastrophic blaze in the area were to happen during a power outage, sustaining fire flows, which require pumps, for a lengthy period wouldn’t be possible.
“We cannot maintain fire flows for an extended period of time,” said Poncelet. “So, heaven forbid we actually have a catastrophic fire while the power is down. That’s the super scary situation for us.”
NV Energy said no single factor drives a shutoff, but fire index, temperatures, wind gusts, humidity, dry vegetation, field observations, and existing fires could lead to power being cut from the system. Due to the several factors that could trigger power being turned off, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District said it cannot reliably predict timing or duration of an outage.
Residents or businesses that can’t be without power should consider professionally installing a generator. All property owners should ensure there’s defensible space around homes and businesses. For additional information and resources, visit http://www.tdpud.org/wildfire-safety. To contact Truckee Donner Public Utility District to update contact information, visit http://www.tdpud.org or call 530-387-3896.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643
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