The isolated community of Greenwater has been without consistent power for five days, and Puget Sound Energy crews are fighting difficult weather conditions while trying to repair the outages.
Cell service, at least for some customers, has also been out since Thursday, residents said.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) reported on their Twitter account that Greenwater was among a few “especially hard-hit areas” in the mountain pass regions. Restoring power has been hampered by “extremely challenging access and safety issues,” PSE reported, and rapidly changing weather could mean outages could return even to areas PSE manages to restore.
According to PSE’s outage map, around 650 customers in and around Greenwater were without power Friday. No estimated restoration time has been given yet for the roughly 150 customers in the Greenwater area proper.
Calls to 911 in the area are still going through and will be answered by the local fire station, said Greenwater / Crystal Mountain Fire Department chief Paul Sowers. But as of late Friday morning, he had no estimate as to when power might be restored.
“This is the kind of thing we deal with, if not every year, at least every couple of years,” Sowers said. “This is a fairly extreme one, but to a degree, it’s business as usual. People up here know what to expect.”
The department is all-volunteer but will be staffing the station 24/7 until they can get regular 911 and phone service restored, Sowers said: “Our focus has been on re-establishing 911 service and making sure we have access throughout the district, and up and down the hill, for emergency vehicles.”
Sowers recommended those thinking about traveling through the area to reconsider.
“When weather is like this, you should probably avoid the area,” he said. “As we’re transitioning out of this and things do get warmer, then we’re going to look at potential flooding, surface water problems, potential landslides, and I’d really hate to see that happen with a couple thousand guests at the mountain. We’re still in this. This is not over.”
Jim Phillips is a local who lives in the Crystal River Ranch area of Greenwater in the winter and in Leavenworth in the summer. He said Friday that the outages have been going on for the last five days, and especially bad in the last 48 hours.
This kind of situation isn’t unusual when the area gets heavy snow, Phillips said.
“But I don’t recall seeing as many trees down in the past as I have this time,” he said. “Which, of course, fall across lines and cause outages.”
The weather this week may have been just the right cocktail to create more headaches than usual.
It started with a few layers of snow bearing down on the trees that was then joined by sleet, all piling up and weighing down on the vegetation while the cold turned everything brittle, Sowers said.
That combination meant “trees were coming down like crazy,” Sowers said: “It was as bad as I’ve ever seen.”
“One of the things you learn up here, is you get these different combinations of weather that … can make something pretty extreme. You get different weather events that stack up on each other and add up to more than the sum of their parts.”