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Utah Power Too Busy to Repair Hot Power Line

Utah Power Too Busy to Repair Hot Power Line

Posted - Jan. 5, 2004 at 4:58 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst ReportingBy now you've heard plenty about the great Holiday Storm that knocked out power, in some cases from Christmas to New Years. The Public Service Commission will get an earful and a lot more tomorrow during a special meeting.

Tonight we have a story suggesting that Utah Power was so overwhelmed, or disorganized, it couldn't do a simple fix on an obvious safety hazard.

Everyone knows you don't touch a live power line because it could kill you. The power company warns us about that all the time. But what happens when a downed power line interferes with your life and the power company doesn't do anything about it?

The problem at the duplex started with heavy snow on Christmas night.

Michael Shelby/Duplex Caretaker: "The snow pulled down a branch. It was probably about six inches in diameter."

Caretaker Mike Shelby says the branch pulled down the main power line for the duplex. And there it la from Christmas night 'til the day after New Years. Hot stuff under the snow.

Michael Shelby: "Yes sir, it was hot. The power was never interrupted."

While the power line was down, the six people who live in the duplex didn't dare to walk behind their own building, and they couldn't get to their own cars.

Michael Shelby: "The kids were out of school, that sometimes play back here. There are other people that generally cut across through here. All these people I was somewhat concerned for." Q: "And what happened when you called the power company?" A: "They just said, 'People are without power, sir. We got to take care of them first.' Hah."

Utah Power acknowledges being overwhelmed last week. There was a breakdown in a new computerized system for handling outage reports.

Dave Eskelsen, Utah Power: “This was the worst storm with the most damage that this company has seen in 20 years.”

Still, the company can't explain why a higher priority wasn't given to a situation that was hazardous, even though the downed line was insulated.

Dave Eskelsen, Utah Power: "If someone had touched it, it probably would not have hurt them. But it still was not a safe condition, not something we want to happen. And we regret that strongly."

Michael Shelby: "I feel fortunate that no one was injured. They teach us with their commercials to avoid power lines at all costs. And then it lies across the parking lot for eight-and-a-half days."

This is the only complaint of this nature we've heard, but lots of people have other issues with the way Utah Power performed during the crisis. They'll have a chance to speak out at tomorrow's hearing.

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