Crews work to restore power to scattered Richland residents

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldDecember 19, 2012 

For most of the day on Tuesday, homes on several Richland streets sat in quiet darkness. Cellphones were silent. Computer and TV screens were dim. Christmas lights failed to twinkle.

Their inhabitants huddled under blankets, or swaddled in layers of sweat pants, sweaters and coats, as they waited for the hum of electricity to return.

"We're lucky we have a gas stove," said A.J. Hill, 18, who moved into his rental home on Dallas Street two weeks ago. "We've been able to cook and make tea. The longer the house goes without heat, the colder it gets."

Hill and his roommate, Andrew Meyer, 19, were among the estimated 400 households that still had no power Tuesday morning, after a storm Monday that brought winds blustering through the Tri-Cities at up to 83 mph -- ripping trees out of the ground, tossing debris and downing power lines.

Temperatures dropped below freezing early Tuesday before warming to the low 40s.

Scurrying work crews in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland on Tuesday continued the work started Monday of clearing debris and making repairs.

Crews from Richland's Energy Services Department by Tuesday morning had restored power to two of three circuits knocked out in the storm, but it took until about 4 p.m. to finish repairing the third to bring electricity back to homes in the vicinity of Boise, Boulder, Camden, Concord, Dallas and Dover streets.

As of 5 p.m., about 50 individual customers scattered throughout central and north Richland still had no power, but city officials said they would work through the night to get those homes turned back on.

Those without power spent the day trying to stay warm and occupied without the electronic entertainment that's a staple of modern life.

After the batteries ran out on their tablet computer and laptop, Sonja and Travis West, on Dallas Street, said they'd drive around periodically just to charge their cell phones in their car.

But their children were taking the outage in stride, and their 10-year-old daughter saw it as an adventure, Sonja West said.

The family's biggest concern was the food melting in their freezer. Travis told the Herald that they bought bags of ice to keep food cold, but thought they'd end up throwing some away.

"Right before the holiday," Sonja said, with a shake of her head.

Hill and Meyer said they passed the time playing guitar or talking.

"It really hasn't been that bad -- just cold," Meyer said.

Jeanne Carpenter, 90, who lives on Camden Street, said she never had experienced an outage lasting that long in the 45 years she's been in her home, but that she and her neighbors made do.

"You're living through it and hoping you don't have to do it again," she said. "Friends and neighbors stick together. It could have been worse if snow was coming down."

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

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