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Stay Clear of Downed Power Lines; Report to PUD

The slippery snow and ice and frequent windy storms of winter put us at greater risk of power outages.

In last week’s column we talked a little bit how to think ahead to cope with a power outage. Today we’re going to emphasis the safety aspects, starting with how to behave near a downed wire.


As you know, the power can go out for a variety of reasons – weather issues including wind, ice and snow, trees falling on lines, a car hitting a pole, birds or small animals destroying equipment and even normal equipment failures from rusted or worn out parts.

Because of its sophisticated equipment, usually the PUD knows immediately that power is out and exactly where it is out. However, if you would like to call the outage hotline, the number is (360) 537-3721 or toll free at 1-888-541-5923.

Also, as we mentioned last week, the PUD has a couple relatively new systems able to notify you of power outages on your computer or cell phone. For more details, check out their web page at


If you have a tree that is threatening a phone line, depending on where it is, the PUD may have it trimmed or felled at no charge to you.

If the tree is within 10 feet of your connection to the service wire, it is your responsibility to cut or trim. However, for safety’s sake, let the PUD know the day you plan to have a professional cut it down. The power to your house can be turned off until the tree is safely down. (Call 532-4220 to schedule the PUD to cut the power to your house for a day to safely cut a tree or to ask more about which trees is your responsibility.)


November through February tends to be when most of the trees knock out the power down during weather events, according to the PUD.

That means we still have several weeks when power outages are more likely to occur.

The primary piece of advice: “Always assume a downed line is hot. Stay away and call 911 or the PUD.”

Electrical service to a home is usually 120 to 240 volts. However, the distribution lines that feed the residential lines are 7,200 volts – the same voltage as the electric chair.

Then, the transmission lines from sub stations to feed from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) lines are from 69,000 to 115,000 volts. Yikes!

However, even though the voltage to a house is relatively smaller, it’s still a concern. The rule of thumb is the lower the voltage, the higher the amperage, according to the experts at the PUD. And, amperage does more damage to tissue.

The obvious conclusion: Stay well away from any power lines!

Often people make the deadly mistake of assuming a downed line is de-energized.

Sometimes a wire will lie on the ground in a storm and the energy from it will turn the asphalt or gravel into glass, displaying just how powerful – and transforming – raw energy can be.

Or a line can lie there and not be sparking and appear harmless.

Always assume any downed line is “hot,” and call the experts!


In closing today, we want to say a few words about generators.

Used properly they can be lifesavers in a power outage. Used improperly – even by accident – they can be life-takers.

So, if you own a generator, take some time before the lights go out to review the manufacturer’s directions so that you can plan ahead where to safely position and how to safely operate a generator in case of a power outage.

The major key, of course, is to take special care so that the unit is placed so that exhaust cannot enter your home and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

That reminds us to remind you that every home – especially those that might use a generator – needs to have a working carbon monoxide detector in the house. It could be a lifesaver!’


If you want up-to-date information from the Grays Harbor PUD, consider subscribing to their Twitter account @GHPUD.

They are also on Facebook as the Grays Harbor Public Utility District.

If you’d like to sign up for outage alerts, click the Outage Alerts option under the Outages menu on the website.


Thinking about buying a new home? The happiest and most successful first-time homebuyers get educated through, first!


We like to give some up-to-the-minute tips and reminders on our Facebook Page – NeighborWorks GH. Pay us a visit and “Like” us sometime soon.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

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