Two major power outages last week in same area were a coincidence, YVEA says

Frosted power lines stretch across Routt County Road 33 outside of Steamboat Springs. Routt County experienced two large-scale power outages last week, and local officials at the Yampa Valley Electric Authority are using them to remind people to be safe around downed power lines.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Last week, two unrelated power outages hit west Steamboat, Milner and parts of Hayden.

A downed power line caused the first outage around noon Wednesday, Dec. 7, affecting about 740 customers from Hayden to west Steamboat, according to Carly Davidson, public relations specialist at Yampa Valley Electric Association.

About 36 hours later on Friday, Dec. 9, a vehicle crashed into a utility pole near the intersection of Elk River Road and Copper Ridge Road, leading to a second outage that was almost twice as big as the first. The second outage covered a similar area — west Steamboat to Hayden — but affected about 1,400 customers. 

No serious injuries were reported from the wreck, and the collision itself didn’t cause the outage.

The vehicle broke through the power pole, leaving utility equipment suspended in the air, according to Davidson. About 7,200 volts passes through that particular line, which is called a “feeder line” and connects customers to the substation.

The pole broke about 35 feet up, and to fix it and move the vehicle, crews had to deenergize the power line. If they hadn’t, a live electrical current could have posed significant danger. 

The second outage occurred at 4:28 p.m. Friday and power was restored at 5:34 p.m.

Davidson said the incident should remind the public of the safety protocols for when vehicles collide with utility poles.

“As long as your car is not on fire, stay in the car and call 911,” Davidson said about collisions with utility poles.

She explained that technicians and rescue crews will always assume there’s a live electrical current coming from the power line if a vehicle breaks a utility pole.

Instructions for how to safely respond to a collision with a utility pole.
Yampa Valley Electric Association/Courtesy image

People who encounter collisions with utility poles should also be cautious, and perhaps resist that good-Samaritan instinct to run to the vehicle and try to help.

“The water content in the snow is actually a conductor,” said Davidson, who added that it might surprise people how far away from a vehicle an electric current can reach.

She also suggested that people in the vehicle could warn others to stay away. Even without snow or water, the ground near downed power lines can be energized up to 35 feet away, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

If the vehicle is on fire, it’s recommended that people in the vehicle avoid touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time, while jumping clear of the vehicle with both feet together. If someone’s feet are separated too far, a person can become an open circuit and may be electrocuted. People who might have to jump clear of the wreck are advised to continue hopping until they are at least 35 feet away. If conditions are wet, ESFI recommends moving away even farther.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.