Tanner Electric keeps power on in storm season weather

Staff at North Bend’s Tanner Electric Cooperative including from left, Nicole Piche, Gwen Campbell, Lisa Peabody, Steve Walter and Rob Carr, ensure energy keeps flowing to local communities during winter months. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Staff at North Bend’s Tanner Electric Cooperative including from left, Nicole Piche, Gwen Campbell, Lisa Peabody, Steve Walter and Rob Carr, ensure energy keeps flowing to local communities during winter months.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Staff and crews at Tanner Electric Cooperative had worked a row of 18-hour shifts in the wake of the December 2006 windstorm, putting the local grid back together.

General Manager Steve Walter watched and waited as energy creeped from the big city out to the end of the line in the Snoqualmie Valley, where the Dec. 15 storm had hammered the coop along with other customers.

At Ames Lake, “it was like a bomb went off,” Walter said. “There were trees down everywhere.”

Finally, after days of waiting, the juice came through.

“There’s nothing like the sound of a substation coming back on,” Walter said. “That brought a smile across everybody’s face.”

Tanner learned a number of valuable lessons in that massive outage. The coop has extra power generating potential to stay up, running and interacting with customers. More transformers, poles and cables are in storage to break out after a storm.

All summer, Tanner crews are working hard, getting ready for winter. That means installing new and robust lines and improving underground infrastructure. Trees also get a trim in preparation for winter storms, because in the Valley, “the wind is what gets us.”

Be safe

Windstorms bring down lines, and Walter said it is often impossible for residents to know whether those lines are live.

“You won’t know,” he said. “Even if it looks insulated, don’t touch it.”

After a storm, some residents like to hop in a car and drive around to survey the damage. Where there are wires down, that’s not the best idea, Walter said.

“If you’re driving and come across a line, don’t drive over it,” he said. “It might become entangled in your car, and you might end up pulling lines down and hurting your car at the same time.”

As a lineman, Walter often encountered residents out sawing fallen trees into firewood even before power crews arrived. That’s not a good idea, either—hidden lines or damaged trees may pose unseen dangers.

The final lesson: if you see a fallen line, call a utility professional and leave it alone.

Stay connected

“With every generation, we become more dependent on electricity,” Walter said. “Things are so reliant on energy—the games we play, the TV we watch, how we cook food. Even when you don’t have power for a few minutes, you feel like you can’t do anything. You sort of go back, play cards, do things you don’t do.”

Tanner encourages customers to keep their utilities’ phone numbers handy in the event of an outage.

“Make sure you call,” Walter said. “We get a lot of people who don’t call because they don’t want to bother us. But then we don’t know if they’re out.”

Big storms can leave pockets of people affected.

“You’ll have multiple contacs that you’ve got to go fix,” Walter said. Calls help crews know where to respond and how the Valley is affected.

Severe outages may become a thing of the past as North Bend grows.

Business and residential demand will bring more redundancy.

“You end up making your system stronger, and everybody benefits from that,” Walter said.

Tanner offers rebates and suggestions for greater energy efficiency in the home, and staff are happy to answer questions about energy savings.

At home, residents can weatherproof doors and windows, replacing inefficient hardware and gaskets to reduce their need for electrical consumption.

Growing power

Tanner Electric Cooperative began business in 1936 as the Mutual Power and Light Association of Tanner by residents of the neighborhood. Founded to provide electricity to residents who could not afford to pay the costs asked by the regional power authority, the group obtained a loan to run 13 miles of line to the first 32 customers. Revenue that year was $286.

Today, Tanner Electric has more than 4,000 customers in the North Bend, Ames Lake and Anderson Island on the Puget Sound. The coop is overseen by a board of nine people, three from each service area.

Tanner Electric Cooperative’s main office is located at 45710 S.E. North Bend Way, North Bend. Call the coop at (425) 888-0623.

Power tips

Before an outage

• Check flashlights and battery-powered portable radios to ensure that they are working, and you have extra batteries. A radio is an important source of weather and emergency information during a storm.

• During an outage, do not open the refrigerator or freezer door. Food can stay cold in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and in a well-packed freezer for 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-packed).

• If you have medication that requires refrigeration, check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage.

• Review the process for manually operating an electric garage door.

During an outage

• Protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power is restored by unplugging all sensitive electronic equipment, including TVs, stereo, VCR, microwave oven, computer, cordless telephone and garage door opener.

After an outage

• Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm. Never attempt to touch or moved downed lines.

• Check with/help neighbors.

• Continue to stay off streets.

• Do not touch anything power lines are touching, such as tree branches or fences. Always assume a downed line is a live line. Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.

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