First off, I want to say that I'm as thankful as anyone for the PGE crews that are working to restore power to the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who are without electricity after the recent massive ice and snow storm.
But I'm a believer in the middle way: give credit where credit is due, and assign blame where blame is due. PGE deserves some of each.
(PGE stands for Portland General Electric, not to be confused with PG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric, a Calfornia utility.)
My main gripe with PGE is their decision to stop giving estimates for when power will be restored to an outage area. My wife and I lost power around 8 pm or so last Friday, February 12.
When I reported the outage via the PGE phone line that night, the automated message said that power could be restored at 6:30 pm on Saturday. On Saturday, the message said 6:30 pm on Sunday. On Sunday, the message said 8:45 am on Monday. On Monday, PGE stopped providing any estimate of when our power would be restored.
That's crazy. You'd think that as more information was learned about outages in Oregon, PGE would have more accurate estimates of when people would have electricity back. But the opposite happened.
That's highly unusual.
Living as we do in rural south Salem for the past 31 years, we've experienced many power outages. Not once has PGE failed to provide an estimate for when power would be restored. Often that estimate was inaccurate, but it sure makes us feel better to know that our neighborhood is on a schedule for repair work.
This screenshot shows what PGE currently is reporting for our address -- four freaking days after our power went out.
Let's decipher this lack of pertinent information, which so far as I can tell is similar to what PGE is reporting for most people in Oregon who lack power.
First, the cause wasn't heavy snow. It was ice. If you think this is a minor quibble, look to the bottom diagram that leads from "Power Out" to "Power Restored."
PGE makes it seem like after a crew was dispatched, the cause was determined. Well, it doesn't take any investigative work to figure out that the ice storm in our part of Marion County caused the power outage.
The real question is what happened during the ice storm that caused the outage in our area of 503 customers affected. I can only speak about our specific neighborhood of about 95 customers in Spring Lake Estates.
Every day I walk our dog past a downed power line on Lake Drive, our street.
I can see that a big tree near 10161 Lake Drive collapsed the power line when it fell during the storm. The line snapped. Part of the line is on the ground. Some of the line is suspended about six feet over a Lake Drive lane.
I've talked with a PGE employee who answers the downed power line option on their phone system. I've told her what I just said above. I've pointed out that the poles on both sides of the downed line are intact, so seemingly it would be pretty easy to reattach a line between the poles.
Yet so far there's been no sign of any PGE activity in our neighborhood.
So what's up with that "Crew Dispatched" item in between "Power Out" and "Cause Determined"? It's clear that dispatched means something different in power company lingo than in ordinary English.
To most people, including me, when someone is dispatched to a problem, like a police officer responding to a 911 call, it means a human being is in motion to handle whatever needs to be dealt with. But here's how Duke Energy defines that term.
Dispatched/Assigned: A repair crew has been assigned to restore service and will proceed to the location as soon as the crew is available. Enroute: The crew is on the way to make repairs. Onsite/Arrived: The crew has arrived at the location where repairs are needed.
PGE must use the same definition, since like I said, there's been zero sign of repair activity at the downed lines even though a crew has been dispatched. So it appears that our neighborhood outage is on a PGE list for some repair work at an undisclosed future date.
When will our power be restored? PGE says in the screenshot, "Not available at this time." Could be tomorrow. Could be next week. Could be a month from now.
If PGE knows, they sure aren't telling. And that irks a lot of other people besides me.
The Portland General twitter account has been sharing tweets like this one from this morning.
I enjoy swiping right on my iPhone and reading responses from Oregonians. Some thank PGE for working to restore power. Others are critical. Here's a sampling of those.
Regarding that last tweet from Poonam, this morning I called the PGE outage number and waited on hold for 12 minutes until a live human being came on the line.
He was polite, unrushed, and refreshingly open with me. I appreciated that a lot.
After he listened to my gripe about PGE not having any estimate for when our power would be restored, and talking about how difficult it is for rural residents lacking generators who have wells that don't function without electricity, he said that he agreed with me.
Here's how I described our conversation in a post this morning on our neighborhood's Facebook page.