Utahns mop up after vicious storms

Power back on for most; county setting out debris trailers

Published: Thursday, Aug. 3 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Allstate Insurance adjuster Lew Thomas looks over the damaged carport of Deanne Hampson in the Millcreek area Wednesday.

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

Rocky Mountain Power crews and Salt Lake County cleanup trucks worked all night restoring electricity and clearing debris following Tuesday's vicious thunderstorms, which caused an estimated $13.2 million damage in Utah County.

"It was a very expensive 12 minutes," said Provo Mayor Lewis Billings.

Provoans swapped hair-raising stories Wednesday as dozens of families waited to return to their homes and 637 waited for power to be restored to theirs. Meanwhile, crews worked to clear trees, power lines and other debris from homes and streets and the East Bay Golf Course — 138 trees were down all over the course — and insurance adjusters began to descend on the city.

In Salt Lake County, the number of homes and businesses without power had dropped to around 300 late Wednesday, while all streets were cleared.

The county's debris cleanup is expected take three weeks. Some hard-hit streets in the Millcreek vicinity remained narrowed to one passable lane.

National Weather Service meteorologist Monica Traphagan said Wednesday the storm's highest recorded gust was 92 mph, gauged at the Provo Airport. The airport suffered extensive damage when planes flipped and hangars were torn apart. Earlier, the highest wind speed confirmed was 60 mph, with 70 mph inferred from radar images taken over Utah Lake.

The 900 residents and businesses still without power Wednesday were among an estimated 26,000 to 30,000 — most in east-central Salt Lake Valley — whose lights went out in Tuesday's storm. Snapped trees and limbs caused outages when they hit power lines.

"Some of the repairs we made yesterday are temporary in nature, and the temperature's coming back up," Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said Wednesday. "We could have some trouble related to load (power use) and the heat."

Crews were mopping up the last of the outages. "We are up in the Millcreek area going through the isolated areas of damage," he said. These are "one or two customers here, a dozen costumers there." By nightfall, he said, the utility hoped to have everyone back on the grid.

But one category of repair is up to the customer to handle first: the power meter base. A mast from a home or business is used to carry a power line that comes in from a nearby pole. At the bottom of the mast is a power meter. If a tree hits the mast, it can wrench the meter off its base.

"We can't restore power until there's a sound meter base to connect to," Eskelsen said.

The meter base is private property that Rocky Mountain Power will not repair. To fix it, the property owner needs to contact an electrician.

Eskelsen knew of at least two such instances. Repairs can't be completed to such homes until the bases are fixed.

Many downed trees were dragged away from power lines by more than a dozen commercial tree crews under contract with the utility. Much of this work is in the area near 3900 South, between 2700 East and 3300 East.

Rocky Mountain Power fielded nearly 300 personnel working to restore electricity, including assessors, three-person, special contract crews and troubleshooters.

"We kept a certain number of crews working throughout the night and made sure that crews that had been working 10 hours or more got rotated out to rest," Eskelsen added.

Phil Bernal, Salt Lake County associate director for public works, said more than 20 green-waste trailers were being set out where residents could deposit storm debris. More were expected to arrive later.

The containers will be emptied by the county and replaced when needed, according to a press release.

"We're starting on the east side, where the most damage was," such as in the East Millcreek area, Bernal said. "We're moving west."

According to the press release, containers were to be set out on this schedule, all of them between 3900 South and 2700 South:

  • This week, between 2700 East and 3900 East.

  • Next week, between 2000 East and 2700 East.

  • The following week, between 1100 East and 2000 East.

Trees or branches too large for the trailers may be left beside the curb for removal by county workers. Anything on private property will not be picked up by the county.

Most of the streets are cleaned up, Bernal said. "We had crews working until 5 in the morning." But he added that some streets had only one lane open as of midday Wednesday.


E-mail: bau@desnews.com

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