All Customers Back On!

PGE told us today that 140,000 of its customers lost power at one point or another during the Saturday storm.  The peak at any one point was 79,000.  Pretty impressive numbers considering the wind speeds were “low” for a windstorm.  That was likely due to the leaves on the trees and the wet ground.  That said, this was the strongest windstorm I’ve seen in October in my 23 year career here.  In fact in some winters we haven’t seen a stronger wind gust the rest of the winter.  Windgusts_30years

The chart above shows the peak gust at PDX each cool season (October-March).  Yellow numbers are years where the highest wind gust was from the east (Gorge wind).  The one red 55 mph gust wasn’t really a windstorm, but a quick squall that moved through the valley in mid-March 2011.  It lasted all of 15 minutes.  I should also point out that from 1995 to around 2006, the ASOS sensor used a 5-second gust, as opposed to a 3 second gust before and after that time.  That means that to get a 60 mph gust (for example), the speed has to hit 60 for 5 seconds.  So during that ~10 year period, peak gusts were reported lower than compared to before and after that time.  For example a 45 mph gust during that period would show up as a 51 mph gust with the 3 second requirement.  I just made up that number, but you get the idea.

As of 10pm this evening it appears there are only two small outages on the south side of Salem and those may not be from Saturday. Here is a chart comparing this storm to some others over the years.  Thanks to PGE for the info…


Note that over the years the number of customers goes up…no surprise there.  In 1962 there were about 280,000 customers, but now there are around 850,000.  So the percentage is a better indicator of storm severity than the numbers when compared to 20+ years ago.

This time around it took less than 2.5 days to get EVERYONE back online…impressive I think.  In 2006 it was 4.5 days.   After that storm crews had to work in some areas that were frozen or a little snowy…no fun.  At least this time it was 55-60 most of the time.  In the massive 1995 windstorm, the last customers came back online in 8 days or so.

The granddaddy of them all, the Columbus Day Storm, took out just about everyone’s power…98% of PGE’s territory.  Wow…the last customers came back online 14 days later.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

15 Responses to All Customers Back On!

  1. W7ENK says:

    Another thing that is contributing to a smaller percentage of customers affected is the fact that many areas now, especially newer subdivisions have underground utilities that are rarely affected by falling trees and branches. It’s less likely that a larger, higher voltage distribution line will take a hit from a tree, though it does still happen and is easier to fix. Underground electrical wasn’t typical until recently.

  2. LongtimeLurker says:

    What were the peak gusts for the ’95 windstorm for PDX? I was out of the country but saw video that my parents took of the aftermath. A fir tree fell parallel to their house, sparing the house, but taking out their car.

  3. Brian Leroy says:

    I hate to say it but I think the worst is over for the rest of fall/winter season we already had heavy rains and now high winds, it turning out to be more active then forecasted this fall but with el nino on the way things should start slowing down for the rest of the year soon, even the cfs models are showing a dry November.

    • David B. says:

      It’s a really weak El Niño… almost not warm enough to be an El Niño at all. The “signal” exhibited by such events tends to be very weak in the PNW, i.e. past weak El Niño winters have been all over the map.

      So color me skeptical about any proclamations that this winter is going to be mostly a bust “because it’s an El Niño winter.”

  4. Dave in SW PDX (235') says:

    I must be getting old – no mention of the Nov ’81 windstorm(s)? I remember them well. I was working at Everybody’s Records on Canyon Road at the time, and the large plate glass windows at the front of the store were flexing back and forth with the wind gusts, which forced us to close early. Lots of downed trees & power outages citywide. Too bad the chart doesn’t go back that far, the 71 MPH gust at PDX would be the clear winner, post-1962.

    • Benjamin (West Salem) says:

      I love the charts (that’s probably what I missed most about not being at the winter weather meeting). I like comparing the snowfall totals from years past, the wind chart (which at least is on this post :)) and some of the others the show past year’s weather events. You should check out:

      Some good readings there.

    • Bryan in Beaverton says:

      The 1995 storm was fun. The 1981 storm was terrifying.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      PGE didn’t have data from the 1981 storm, although someone found a clip that said 200,000 lost power…not sure if that was just PGE or other companies as well

    • dharmabum says:

      Dave now that you mention it I remember the November 1981 storm quite well. I was building my house and my dad and I had placed a large 2nd story beam that runs the length of the house early that day and had braced it in with no other 2nd story framing in yet so the darn thing was just kind of sitting up there. As the winds picked up I watched that beam flex in the middle and wondered and worried whether it would stay up. It did and the house is still standing!

  5. Benjamin (West Salem) says:

    1st?? 🙂

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