After a punishing winter storm knocked the lights out for about a week, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) crews have turned the power back on at Greenwater.
The local phone grid had also been restored by Sunday, though not everyone regained phone service immediately.
“Essentially, the majority of all the customers in Greenwater who have been out since Jan 5. are now restored,” PSE spokesperson Melanie Coon said.
A combination of heavy snowfall and rain led to dicey conditions across the Plateau area in early January. At the small Greenwater community on Highway 410, that manifested in falling trees which damaged PSE equipment and blocked roads.
“This outage was something we hadn’t seen in many, many years,” Coon said. “It was challenging all around — heavy snow, whiteout conditions, frigid temperatures, potentially unsafe conditions where you have avalanche danger, your crews having to hike on foot to get to some of the areas.”
Crews focused first on restoring power to the town of Greenwater itself, she said, and that was accomplished Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday at 2:20 p.m., another 200 customers or so in the area had their power restored as well. Crews had to replace a power pole to get that area fixed up.
John Clark, co-owner of Wapiti Outdoors along with his wife Karlyn Clark, said that a few scattered outages took place early in the month, but it was around Jan. 5 or 6 when their power, phone and internet service went down for the count.
“We started getting rain on top of the snow hanging on the limbs, and those trees decided to come down all over the place,” he said.
Clark confirmed that their power and cell phone service came back Tuesday, and their landline service was back by Wednesday morning. (The Clarks commute to work from Enumclaw.)
But internet access hadn’t come back for them yet by Wednesday afternoon, Clark said.
“All modern point of sale systems, whether you’re restaurant, retail, a bar or grocery store, rely on the internet for credit card transactions and inventory management,” Clark said. “When that’s down … you essentially have to go back to more primitive forms. I’ve heard of some business in town handwriting credit card info. They’ll run those credit cards once everything comes back.”
While Greenwater residents are no spring chickens when it comes to outages and other seasonal challenges in the winter, the treacherous conditions, historic levels of snow and extreme cold this month created something “we don’t see very often,” Coon said.
While things have settled down a bit, people in the area should keep an eye on weather conditions, Coon said. The ground in areas is heavily saturated from the snow and rainfall. Crews are confident about the repairs, Coon said, but the potential for new outages is always there.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the area was under a flood watch issued by the National Weather service that was estimated to last through Thursday morning. Only a couple of tiny outages were still reported in the area — one due to an equipment failure at the Black Diamond Camp and another from vegetation near Deep Creek.
For many, Greenwater is the last stop on the way to recreation around Mt. Rainier. But severe weather events like this month’s can be particularly hard on the people who live there, Clark said.
“A lot of folks with cabins and homes up here, they don’t have a generator,” Clark said. “A close friend of ours, her house is 40 degrees all day and night. She’s just trying to burn a fire, waiting for power to come back on. That’s a rough go for an older lady.”
While the people up there “are built for it,” Clark said, landslides, forest fires and excessive snow are familiar concerns for residents.
“The weather pattern is aggressive these days,” he said.