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Bend-area power restored after lengthy blackout

By Barney Lerten
John Hendricks
Published On: Aug 23 2013 10:51:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 24 2013 01:09:26 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on a power outage caused by lightning Friday night.

BEND, Ore, -

An apparent lightning strike knocked out power to nearly 11,000 Pacific Power customers on Bend’s north side and west to Tumalo for 2 1/2 hours Friday evening, but it took another hour for the last 2,700 residents to see the lights come back on.

The lights blinked off around 7:10 p.m. and, for most residents came back on well after dark, around 9:40 p.m. More than 2,700 others had their power restored around 10:20 p.m., officials said.

NewsChannel 21 meteorologist Travis Knudsen said tracking systems recorded only three lightning strikes from a storm moving through Bend around that time.

The Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville said Saturday no new smoke reports had been received in the area overnight, with initial-attack crews ready to respond to new fires as needed.

The National Weather Service has issued a new fire weather watch for Sunday, warning of the chance of isolated to scattered thunderstorms producing abundant lightning on the east slopes of the northern Oregon and southern Washington Cascades.

While drivers were reminded to treat intersections without signals as four-way stops, many people who were going about their Friday night business --at places from restaurants to stores etc. -- ended up having their plans changed or scrapped entirely.

"We're told it was weather related issue out at the power station on Hwy. 20," Deschutes County Sheriff Larry Blanton "I think a lightning strike or something."

Blanton told NewsChannel 21 the Deschutes County 911 dispatch center, the sheriff's office and the jail were forced to go on backup generator power.

"We are on reduced movement in the jail, condensed public safety issues out here," Blanton said.

He added they were remaining calm and in a lockout.

"We have called in additional staff 'til we get the power back on and make sure we are back up and operational," Blanton said. "Not a good situation, but something we train for and hope never happens."

Some residents on Bend's north side saw lightning and heard a loud boom of thunder about the time the lights went off.

And then there were folks like Heidi Henry, who posted on the NewsChannel 21 Facebook page: "When the power went out, almost everyone in my apartment complex came outside to enjoy the weather. It was nice to socialize with my neighbors. It's amazing how much we rely on technology and power."

The utility said 10,977 customers lost power in five ZIP codes -- 97701, 97702, 97707, 97708 and 97709.

Fortunately, a late-summer outage in the evening comes with it still light out, and it also wasn't too warm in Bend, making for fewer problems than a cold winter blackout.

The outage also had a very hit-or-miss nature -- The Riverhouse (on generator?) had its lights on, other areas nearby did not. North Division Avenue businesses had power; the nearby lights were out. Many saw lights across the street from them, for all the good it did.

Utility spokeswoman Jan Mitchell said crews had to patrol the 69,000-volt line from the Pilot Butte substation in two directions for safety reasons to prepare for a safe restoration.

In a hopeful sign on its its 9:15 p.m. Web update, the utility said a crew was "on site and repairs are underway."

Around 9:30 p.m., Mitchell said crews had finishing patrolling one line and were preparing to energize at least part of the Overpass Substation, by the Bend Parkway. Lines from the Hunters Circle Substation were still being patrolled, so that area might come on a bit later, she said.

One NewsChannel 21 Facebook commenter said her daughter was heading home from working at Brasada Ranch and saw the lightning hit, starting a fire on the side of the road, and stopped to help put the fire out.

Share your information, comments or questions here in the comment section of our story, or on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/KTVZ21.

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