Yesterday a Portland General Electric (PGE) tree clearing crew was working in our neighborhood prior to the restoration of power following a massive ice storm.
We and our neighbors had been without electricity for 11 days at this point. So it was a joy to finally see PGE repair activity occurring.
Laurel, my wife, had noticed a PGE truck in the driveway of our neighbor to the south on Lake Drive in rural south Salem, where a tree was in contact with an electrical line.
She walked over to talk to the crew to make sure that they knew about a similar situation on our property. Some large branches were leaning against the line that leads from a power pole near our house to the house just north of us.
After she showed the crew chief where the problem was, he walked back to his truck and led the other two crew members to the location.
I decided to watch them do their tree clearing thing. The photo below shows part of the tangled maze of branches that had come down in the ice storm. Our neighbor's house is visible on the right.
The fence between our properties was intact, though a gate had been knocked loose.
The other two members of the crew followed the chief's lead. I was impressed by the light-hearted energy of all three PGE employees. It was late in the day, about 4:30 pm. They'd been working long hours for many days.
Yet they joked around, kidding each other. It was apparent that they had a lot of respect for the crew chief -- well-deserved, as I'll describe below.
It turned out that the crew chief, whose name I didn't get, had worked for Elwood's Tree Service before PGE. My wife and I have used Elwood's often on our ten acres. The crew chief remembered coming out to our property several times.
I didn't take photos of the initial part of the tree clearing effort.
That started with the crew chief picking up a rope with a loop at the end, swinging it around his head like a cowboy steer roper, and throwing it high up toward the end of a large branch, or tree, that was leaning against the electrical line.
He got the loop over the top of the branch on the first try. Really impressive. Then he threw the rest of the rope over the line. From there he and a crew member were able to pull on the line and get the branch, or tree, to topple safely. This is the crew chief.
It was interesting to listen to the discussion as to how to deal with the branches. One of the crew members pointed to a branch and suggested they do that one first.
But the crew chief said, no, no. Thinking several moves ahead like a chess master, he pointed out how difficult it would be if they dealt with that branch, then the other one. I didn't follow the conversation all that clearly, since I was standing a ways distant.
What impressed me was how the crew chief was able to size up the various aspects of the branch problem and quickly figure out the best approach.
The photo below shows him using a long pole saw to remove a "hanger," I think they called it, that was keeping the large branch dangling on the wire.
She could see our power pole swaying, which shows how heavy the branch was. I was worried the electrical line was going to break, but they must be pretty darn strong, since it didn't.
This wasn't an easy job. There was no way to get a truck with a lift anywhere near the electrical line, so all they had to work with was a chainsaw, rope, and the long extension pole.
Since a PGE guy in a truck had told my wife that power can't be turned on to a house if a branch is touching the line, we were deeply appreciative of the tree crew doing what they did, when they did it -- an hour or so before power came back on in most of our neighborhood.
We had to wait for power until this morning, along with three other homes in Spring Lake Estates.