Last week's storms wreaked havoc on the Turlock Irrigation District's electrical system, leading to several blown transformers and a whopping 15 pole power pole fires.
“I can't remember the last time we had 15 pole fires,” TID Service Division Supervisor Mark Pickens said. “It's been a long time.”
Pole fires can occur when a combination of dust and light rain or drizzle cause power poles to become conductive – especially with the first rain of the season.
Though most outages were restored quickly, the sheer volume of incidents led to lengthy outages for some TID customers. April Premo, of Ceres, said her power was out for 13 hours due to a pole fire.
Premo said that she called TID after her electricity had been down for seven hours. At that point, crews had yet to come out. She was told that it would likely be hours more before her power was restored, as she was still 12th on the list.
Though Premo said TID staff were all very nice and helpful throughout the ordeal, she expressed concern at the duration of the outage.
However the number of incidents was simply massive, TID Director Joe Alamo said, leading to unavoidably long restoration times.
“This isn't a common event,” Alamo said. “We had all of our resources out to try to get the power back up.”
That included TID's crew of contractors, employed by American Site Builders, of Texas. Those contract employees were working until 6:30 a.m., Pickens said.
The contract workers supplemented TID's five in-house lineworker crews to get the power back on, working through the night to restore Premo's power at 3:25 a.m. The electricity would have been out all night had it not been for the hard work of those lineworker crews, she said.
But for many communities like Premos, comprised mostly of seniors and “frail” individuals, having the power out much longer could have been dangerous, she said. She urged TID to hire additional lineworker crews to help address emergency situations.
“This was not a tornado, this was not a hurricane, this was not an earthquake,” Premo said. “What happens when a real disaster happens?”