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Severe Weather Causes Multiple Outages in the Copper Basin Over Christmas Holiday


(Images: damage to wires and equipment. Click to enlarge)

January 10, 2024, 10 a.m.

Glennallen, AK – A second round of severe weather struck CVEA’s Copper Basin district over the Christmas holiday, resulting in multiple power outages beginning Saturday evening, December 23, and lasting until 6:30 p.m., December 25. Outages were experienced in various locations along the Richardson, Old Rich, Edgerton, and Glenn Highways. At one point, the district experienced outages in as many as nine locations simultaneously.

Wet, heavy snow was the ongoing cause of outages experienced by CVEA members. Heavy snow caused trees to bend or break and fall into power lines, causing damage to the lines and extensive damage to other equipment. Hazardous road conditions impacted the crew’s ability to travel and patrol, and increased the time it took for repairs and power restoration.

Due to avalanche conditions, Thompson Pass closed early Sunday morning, preventing the Valdez line crew from assisting. CVEA secured extra line crew members from Electric Power Constructors in the Mat-Su Valley. They arrived on scene by roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Once the highway reopened late Sunday evening, the Valdez line crew joined the restoration effort.

Crews worked around the clock throughout the duration of this weather event patrolling the lines, clearing trees from the lines, and making necessary equipment repairs. Areas were re-energized systematically based on several factors, including the number of people affected, length of travel to the area, and significance of the repairs needed. It is always the priority of CVEA to restore power to the greatest number of members in the shortest length of time possible, lessening the impact to the majority.

During the outage, CVEA received questions and heard concerns regarding the number of trees that have fallen onto the lines and caused damage. This is an issue that CVEA works hard to combat each year through an extensive right of way management program, and planned system improvements. Annual focus is given to areas identified as trouble spots, or areas that have experienced an unusually high number of outages or damage due to trees. From there, focus shifts to the main line as that serves the largest number of members, then to lines that feed smaller areas, such as subdivisions and side roads.

Right of way management is ongoing and a significant amount of time and funds are spent on this effort each year. Annually, CVEA clears 12 miles of transmission right of way and 31 line-miles of distribution, with 20 of those miles in the Copper Basin and 11 in Valdez. In addition, crews tackle trouble spots with the SkyTrim. In 2022 and 2023, crews trimmed roughly 26 miles on the West Line, the entire Old Edgerton Highway, and 14 miles on the Edgerton Highway, respectively. In 2024, CVEA will continue work on the West Line, trim trouble areas from Copper Center, heading South, and finish the Edgerton Highway, if time allows. In addition to right of way management, system improvements are planned that prioritize trouble areas.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of trees along CVEA’s 500 miles of distribution lines and 105 miles of transmission line. In the majority of cases, trees that are outside of the right of way fall onto CVEA power lines, causing outages. The cooperative has limited legal authority to fell trees that are outside of the right of way.

CVEA has an obligation to balance reliability improvement projects with high project costs.

The cooperative thanks all members for their patience during recent outages, and thanks the CVEA team who worked tirelessly throughout this weather event to get the lights back on and keep members informed. CVEA would also like to thank the crew from Electric Power Constructors for their efforts.

If you have questions regarding this information, please contact Sharon Scheidt, CVEA Director of Communications, at 907-822-3211, 907-835-4301, or email sscheidt@cvea.org.