Power company readies for winter

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) continues preparations for what has forecasters calling for more precipitation and colder temperatures for Western Washington this winter. The utility is gearing up to meet winter's worst weather by working on response times, enhancing service and getting information more rapidly to its 968,000 electric and 633,000 natural gas customers.

"With every weather event that puts extra demands on our system, we learn from those experiences," said Sue McLain, senior vice president of operations for PSE. "While power outages are unavoidable under extreme weather conditions, we are continually strengthening our delivery system to minimize prolonged service disruptions. Since 2000, our reliability upgrades have reduced the number of power outages by 12 percent."

PSE has an aggressive year-round initiative to upgrade reliability through a variety of programs providing long-term improvements and lower costs for customers. Since January, PSE has made the following system upgrades:

* Trimmed 175,000 trees and removed 22,600 trees threatening power lines along 2,282 miles. PSE's 5-year-old, nationally-recognized "Tree Watch" program has helped reduce tree-related power outage by approximately 25 percent. (Note: The prolonged dry summer may have weakened some trees making them susceptible to being uprooted by high winds.)

* Installed 1,905 animal guards around electrical equipment, reducing animal-related outages.

* Replaced or upgraded 49 miles of natural gas main and improved natural gas system-pressures along 58 miles of main pipe.

"We also have set out to improve every aspect of our response plans and processes to deal with extreme weather situations," McLain said. "The plans are tested and refined through a mock storm drill we run every year in early fall."

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