Weather takes North End power by storm

HANSVILLE — The entire North End shut down into a winter wonderland for a day or so this week, as a snowstorm, claimed to be the biggest since 1996, blanketed Western Washington.

While most residents took the day off and skied, snowshoed and sledded, it was the cold temperatures prior to the storm that impacted Hansville residents the most during the week’s cold snap.

Several Hansvillites reported that they only received a few inches of snow on Jan. 6, but said they experienced power outages during the below freezing temperatures on Jan. 4 and 5.

Tom Anderson, owner of Hansville Grocery and Provisions, said the power flickered off and on all day Sunday but Monday was worse. Power was out at his store for several hours in the morning and in the evening Jan. 4, forcing Anderson to close the store on Monday morning.

Sunday’s sporadic 10-minute outages were caused by the Puget Sound Energy ‘s attempts to balance out the high amounts of electricity being used on the circuits, said PSE spokesperson Tim Bader. Because the levels and loads were high on Sunday, PSE called 300 Hansville residents that evening to encourage them to reduce the amount of energy used. This included reducing the use of lighting, hot water, electric dryers and furnaces during peak times of 5-9 p.m. Sunday night and 6-9 a.m. Monday.

The calls were part of a phone tree system developed by PSE to conserve energy in such situations. The conservation plan was more popular in the northern community than a temporary emergency generator, which PSE had been trying to locate there since May 2003, but citizens said they didn’t want.

However, Monday’s several-hour blackouts were caused by equipment malfunctions at the Port Gamble substation and caused electrical failures in Port Gamble and Hansville. They not related to the underwater cable failing or overloaded circuits, Bader said, adding that the high quantities of electricity being used on Sunday and Monday concerned PSE officials.

The average peak load Monday was 500 amps, or 11 megawatts. One megawatt serves 1,000 homes. Bader said if the load had reached 12 megawatts, the community would have been pushing the maximum load the circuits could handle.

“There was a lot of energy being used,” he explained.

PSE engineers discovered that they could only bring back the power on Monday in segments, so Port Gamble and Hansville received their electricity slowly.

While the engineers learned that its circuits can handle the electrical loads on a 23-degree day, Bader said the high volume of power still had PSE concerned and that PSE would still like to have the option to place a generator in the area.

Bader said if the generator option was available, officials would have been on the brink of bringing it to Hansville earlier this week.

“We probably would have run it only one day and take it out on Monday,” he said. “It’s all theoretical because we don’t have a generator site set yet.”

At a Jan. 22 public meeting, PSE officials will meet with residents to discuss conserving electricity and to talk about the generator site again.

“We will be pushing for generator but in the immediate future, it’s going to be an energy-efficiency campaign,” Bader said.

There will also be a mailing sent to Hansville residents early next week that provides tips on conserving energy.

In other areas of the North End, everyone took a snow day, swamping the stores that were open with requests for sleds and boots.

In Kingston, Dave Hildbrand of Sacks Feed and Nursery said he observed about five inches of snow fell on the Little City by the Sea.

“It was very white and very pretty but it’s a mess today,” Hildebrand said on Wednesday.

Hildebrand and his employees were swamped with requests for boots, gloves and sleds, with calls coming in from as far away as Port Orchard.

But on Wednesday, life in Kingston “seems to be back to normal,” he said.

Cindi Dudley of the Kingston Farmers Market and Dudley Farm said the weather was actually blessing for her crops and farm animals.

“The snow is great for all the plants,” she said. “It’s a blanket.”

Normally, there is snow, then freezing temperatures, then snow and finally rain, Dudley said. This time, it was just freezing temperatures, then snow, then rain. With the rapidly melting snow and warming temperatures, Dudley said she didn’t have to worry about constantly melting water for her animals and keeping them warm.

“Having the temperatures come back up is the biggest help,” she said.

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