Yuma storm brings out the best in the community
The monsoon season can test us — all of us. With its brutal winds and heavy rains, it tests our fortitude and our ability to cope with inconvenience and turmoil.
Our region has endured a tough monsoon this summer, but I couldn't be prouder of the way our customers, public officials, emergency response agencies, volunteers, local merchants and, of course, our APS crews have risen to the challenge.
As APS's energy delivery manager for the Yuma region, I'm tasked with managing the people and processes that allow us to bring reliable power to the residents and business in the Yuma area.
This column is usually written by APS relationship manager Andrea Bereznak, but I asked Andrea to allow me the space this month to thank everyone for their cooperation and patience during one of the most destructive storms to hit our region. I'd also like to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the restoration efforts and the amount of cooperation and coordination needed to handle an event of this magnitude.
Here is how the events unfolded:
• At about 5 p.m. on Sept. 9, severe winds took down about 70 power poles, including both sources that deliver power into our Foothills substation. (Media reports indicated winds at the Yuma International Airport reached 66 mph.) As a result, about 19,000 of our customers suddenly were left in the dark.
• Immediately, we mobilized at our operations centers in both Yuma and Phoenix. In Yuma, we worked to get an early sense of the damage, so as to decide how to mobilize our personnel. Meanwhile, we relied on our colleagues in Phoenix to send additional support. Our Yuma crews were supplemented with personnel from Phoenix, Flagstaff, Casa Grande, Buckeye and other areas. In addition to sending dozens of employees to another city on moment's notice, we also had to coordinate the delivery of replacement poles and other equipment and account for accommodations for those staying multiple days in Yuma.
• By midnight Sunday, due to some reconfiguring of our system, we were able to reduce the total number of customers without service to about 17,000. Of that total, about 14,000 customers residing in the Foothills area east of Yuma still were affected. The other 3,000 customers were within the city of Yuma, in the south mesa area and southwest of Yuma, including some Cocopah Nation customers.
• Cleanup and repair of the damage was complicated by the fact that the damaged poles carried multiple lines at different voltage levels. The initial focus was on restoring the sources of power to the Foothills substation as that would enable APS to bring the area with the largest number of customers back in service. Through the hard work of our crews, we were able to get the majority of the 14,000 customers served by the Foothills substation in service late evening Monday. Restoration work continued unabated until all those impacted by the storm were returned to service late Tuesday morning.
• While APS worked to restore power, we had tremendous assistance from a number of our community partners, including Yuma County Emergency Management, Walmart, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, which opened relief centers at Mt. Zion Church and Castle Dome Middle School.
• In addition to the 18,000 pounds of dry ice, APS gave away 800 20-pound bags and more than 1,000 10-pound bags of wet ice as well.
In all, it took the combined efforts of our community to come together to get through this event. At APS we are grateful for the help, cooperation and patience shown by everyone. It was a true community effort.
Phil Smithers is the energy delivery manager for the Southwest division at Arizona Public Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or aps.com.