MW&L crews help SUB, PGE with storm restorations

Feb. 8, 2024: McMINNVILLE, OR — McMinnville Water and Light crews finally arrived back home and were able to get some much needed rest last week after assisting PGE and Springfield Utility Board in restoring power to homes and businesses after a devastating storm hit a wide swath of Oregon starting on Jan. 13.

Although McMinnville saw some freezing rain and icy roads, outages in the McMinnville area were minimal. Crews quickly responded to one outage affecting 106 customers on Jan. 13. That meant that crews were available to help other utilities that bore the brunt of the storm. Four MW&L lineworkers assisted PGE starting Jan. 14, and then returned to McMinnville on Jan. 16, according to Electric Superintendent Gene Crowston. On Jan. 17, a crew of six headed to Springfield, which was among the hardest hit by the winter storm. MW&L crews worked for 12 days to assist SUB, which estimated that nearly half of Springfield homes and businesses lost power at some point during the storm. Crews worked around fallen trees and limbs and in freezing, icy conditions, often restoring power two or three times in the same area and to the same customers.

According to SUB, the January storm had a 4-day damage period; other major storms in recent years have had a damage period of one day or less. The city of Springfield declared a state of emergency just days after the storm due to the devastating effects and damage.

As part of a mutual aid agreement, MW&L crews joined crews from Ashland and Forest Grove in responding to the restoration effort. Crowston said the damage in Springfield was unlike anything he had seen in his 25-year utility career, saying there was “destruction everywhere.”

That reaction was echoed by many others, including SUB General Manager Jeff Nelson, who called the storm “the mother of all electric system disasters.” SUB reported that 80 poles were destroyed; in the previous three storms, SUB replaced a total of 10 poles.

“They did a fantastic job down there,” Crowston said, mentioning that MW&L crews also were without power one evening when they returned to their hotel to rest after a shift.

“Storm work is something lineman look forward to – being able to travel to other utilities and work in other systems is always a rewarding experience,” Crowston said. “Our crew worked hard to restore power to Springfield’s customers, and are proud that we were able to help!”
Two MW&L Linemen in bucket truck posing with broken pole