Recent power outages pose ‘a safety issue,’ firefighter says

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Several recent power outages in the Winchester Hills area are drawing concern from residents who argue the problem puts their community at risk.

The outages started July 7, with several more outages taking place over the course of almost a week and half – all of them but one lasting three to four hours.

For many, having the power out in temperatures reaching as high as 110 degrees can be uncomfortable, but for some it’s a safety issue, especially with cell towers going down within 15 minutes after the power is out.

“At that point, we (firefighters) can’t get any 911 notifications to our pagers because that comes through the cell towers,” Brian Allen, a resident and volunteer firefighter in Winchester Hills, said. “So we won’t know if there’s an emergency like a fire or an accident. The community is also largely elderly, so that also becomes a safety issue in my opinion because someone could fall and need our help and we won’t get that 911 page.”

Allen said he has been working with AT&T to see what – if anything – the company can do to resolve the issue, but at this time, it remains a problem.

Winchester Hills dealt with similar issues about six years ago, Allen said, but was eventually able to get the problem resolved after meeting with representatives from Rocky Mountain Power. At that point, the fix involved placing wind stabilizers on the above-ground power lines feeding into Winchester Hills.

Residents have questioned whether Rocky Mountain Power needs to upgrade the stabilizers or conduct maintenance on the power lines, stating that the power outages seem to occur during wind storms. However, Rocky Mountain Power maintains these outages have nothing to do with the previous issue.

It’s not an issue of maintenance. The company has done an annual assessment on the power lines out there every year since we had that issue,” Dave Eskelsen, a company spokesman, said. “They have also done a number of projects at a significant cost to the company to make sure the customers in that area have reliable service.”

In several of the incidents, lightning strikes caused the power to go down, Eskelsen said.

In one of the two outages that occurred last weekend, there were technical issues related to the substation in Middleton that feeds power to the Winchester Hills residents.

“Workers spent much of the weekend working on that substation,” Eskelsen said.

However, they were unable to fully resolve the issues due to mechanical parts that need to be shipped in, he said. The second outage last weekend occurred when the company transferred the customers to a backup system early Monday morning, which took about three hours.

Eskelsen was unable to provide a date for when the customers will be switched back to the main substation.

It will take some time to make the repairs because it involves getting the parts, but we think the backup system will serve all the customers dependably for now,” he said.

When the repairs are finished customers can expect to experience another outage for a short period of time, Eskelsen said, adding that the company intends to conduct outbound calling prior to that outage to let customers know beforehand.

Sources said Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, had been working with Rocky Mountain to fix the issues with the power outages. Several phone calls and texts to Ipson from St. George News to confirm were not returned, and several residents interviewed by St. George News said they were not aware of his involvement.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Caveat_Emptor July 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Too bad these folks cannot be connected to an alternate source, like Dixie Power. I have experienced excellent service in the past few years from Dixie, including through some serious wind events, and thunderstorms.

    If RMP has such a fragile operational infrastructure locally, then they should be proactively investing in equipment, and spare parts to improve their reliability. It is their problem…………….Maybe I am wrong, but I do not think the Public Utility Commission has not negotiated cheaper rates for UT consumers if they put up with third world reliability.

    AT&T users should be pressuring the carrier to figure out what back-up power options they have, once their storage batteries die out. Is it too much to expect a standby generator be available when RMP’s outage lasts too long?

    • WH July 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      We almost pushed to switch to Dixie Power when things were so bad 5 – 7 years ago, but then they fixed them and it was pretty good until this summer. Hopefully the changes they’ve recently made will fix it. The power will be out again briefly tonight as they switch us back.

      Getting through to AT&T has been very difficult. Their customer support line doesn’t know anything about the towers. Their tower leasing division just handles the leasing, not the physical maintenance. The best option we’ve found is their Mark the Spot app and filing a complaint with details, but you have no idea if that is getting through to a human. Anyone have a local or even regional contact for the AT&T infrastructure? Going down after 20 minutes of power loss just isn’t reasonable.

  • DRT July 21, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Perhaps it’s time to switch your carrier?

  • jvelo July 21, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    We can’t switch- there’s a monopoly up here in Winchester Hills and all of this area just like those with Dixie can’t get RMP…which BTW, just had another blackout – only 10 minutes this time at 10 pm tonight. Even the Ledges was out. But this is, like they said, one of several over the last week or so. Last Sunday the lights went out twice, and for a lot longer.

    • WH July 22, 2017 at 8:17 am

      I’m sure DRT was referring to switching cell phone carriers. I’m keeping that as a last resort. Aside from this AT&T has been pretty good, and I’m not a Verizon fan.

      As for power, I’d love to go off-grid entirely. Step 1 is an oversized solar system (and making sure it will work with large equipment, like welders). Step 2 is geothermal for A/C. Step 3 is batteries. Step 4 is bye bye RMP.

  • mamashark July 22, 2017 at 2:08 am

    I say BS this story is only about Winchester when the outages are all the way up Hwy 18 to Central and above, Diamond and Dammeron and all the way down to Gunlock. Also BS that they were going to call customers about the planned switch outage, no such action took place! Tracie this story leaves hundreds of us in the “dark “!!!!!!!!!!!

    • WH July 22, 2017 at 8:14 am

      Thanks for the clarification, you’re right about the areas this affected. But I’m sure it wasn’t intentional to leave off the other areas. Show some gratitude, I’m sure Tracie worked hard doing the legwork for this story and she’s “shining some light” on our problem, which can only help us. Thanks Tracie!

  • wilbur July 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

    .

    Lousy sub-station design;been problematic for years now.

    (At least people get to play with their home generators on a regular basis.)

  • DRT July 22, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Perhaps it’s time for the residents affected by the power outages to complain to the Utah Public Utility Commission!
    Here is a link to get information on filling complaints:
    https://psc.utah.gov/complaint-process/

  • knobe July 22, 2017 at 8:49 am

    FWI – these outages are Not just Winchester ,
    they run far up Hiway 18 including Dammeron Valley and Veyo .
    Last night was the 5th outage in 4 weeks .

    And those cell towers Should have back up generators !
    Is Utah lax on building standards ?
    All medical , emergency and communication facilities Should Have Back-up Generators ! ! !

    !

  • WH July 22, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    And now (Saturday) we’re 45 minutes into ANOTHER power outage after a simple rain storm. This is pathetic, RMP!

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