Area readies for incoming storm; Residents asked to conserve power

Widespread destruction of electrical systems caused by Northern Nevadan storms this week is "unprecedented," Sierra Pacific Power Co. officials said Wednesday.

Thousands of customers in Lake Tahoe are expected to still be in the dark today as crews from Nevada, California and Oregon continue to fix downed power and transmission lines.

Sierra Power spokesman Karl Walquist said the company, which serves 50,000 square miles in western Nevada, has never seen this much damage to equipment over such a wide area.

"We've never had such widespread destruction to our power systems," Walquist said. "This is unprecedented."

Saturday's winds, which gusted up to 100 mph in some areas, blew down 132 poles and damaged 34 transmission lines, the utility reported.

The last time the company had a similar level of outages was in the 1960s, when a fire destroyed power systems at Donner Summit that delivered electricity to the region from California, Walquist said.

Officials were asking residents on the valley floor in Douglas County and the Lake Tahoe region to conserve energy as they repaired transmission lines. Crews were able to make enough temporary repairs to lines in the Minden and Gardnerville areas to lift conservation measures.

Douglas County officials still are asking Lake Tahoe residents to turn off all unnecessary lights and appliances and to not use their Christmas lights for the remainder of the week, said Richard Mirgon, emergency management director for the county.

The majority of customers without power in the Carson, Reno, Sparks, Minden and Gardnerville areas for the past several days had service restored by Wednesday afternoon.

But as of Wednesday night, 15 customers remained without power in western Carson City and five in the Minden-Gardnerville area.

Alpine County sill had 650 customers without power, Walquist said. The problem was expected to be fixed early today.

Crews hoped to restore power to 130 customers in Yerington by Wednesday night.

In South Lake Tahoe, power was expected to be restored to 1,150 residents over the next few days. Of those, 500 were scattered outages that may take much longer to fix, Walquist said. On the north shore, 2,361 customers were expected to be restored in the next few days.

A less-severe storm is expected to hit the area late today. The National Weather Service in Reno is calling for a total accumulation of 2 feet of snow in the mountains by Friday evening, when the storm is expected to break.

Heavy wind is not expected with today's storm, although Friday might bring gusts at Lake Tahoe, weather forecasters said.

The American Red Cross expected 30 residents to spend the night at a shelter opened Tuesday at the Reno Livestock Events Center. The shelter will close today at 10 a.m. as power is expected to have been restored.

Meanwhile, a Carson-area spa is offering residents without power half price off on spa services during the storms.

Susan Anderson, owner of Health Quenchers, a day spa at 326 E. Winnie Lane in the Cross Roads Shopping Center in Carson City, said she wanted to do something for those who were affected by the storm. The spa is offering a warm shower and sauna spa session for $15, she said.

"It's the holidays, and I wanted to do something nice for those people," Anderson said.


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