Most people wouldn't call a day, trudging through knee deep snow, ducking under trees, getting tangled up in bushes, getting trucks stuck and snow falling down the back of your shirt while cutting down trees laying on the Powerlines "Fun" Well, I guess those people aren't Lineman.:wink:wink. It never fails when the first snow of the year comes around. You know that heavy wet snow that makes perfect snowballs... ya that kind. It weighs down the tree's branches, and eventually the whole tree. Of course they have to lean over towards the Powerlines for some reason. Maybe it is some sort of survival of the fittest test Mother Nature puts on every year?? I am just gonna say this, "It is amazing how far trees can bend before they finally break" Those young trees are dang flexible. So let's head up into the Blue Mountains of Washington and restore power on another episode of...
A Day With A Lineman #42
First Snow of the Year
In all honestly, I can’t believe we only had a handful of power outages last weekend. We had winds over 40 MPH all weekend and as a result just a couple small outages. Then the snow hit. Down in the valley we didn’t get but a little trickle of rain, sideways rain due to the wind. Then you take one look up into Blue Mountains and you know it was dumping some snow up there. I seriously was wondering all day on Saturday when my dang phone was gonna ring. It never did. It wasn’t until Sunday morning when I received a call about an outage... trees fell into the Powerlines... go figure. Time to dust off the winter gear, throw on an extra layer of clothes and get ready for some fun.
The snow level hadn’t gotten down too far yet. A little skiff of snow here and there, then once you got into it... you were in it. I really wanted to stop and have a look around take a bunch of photos butt.... I had work to do. Don’t the snow covered trees just grab your attention? If you haven’t figured it out, I enjoy the snow a little bit.
I had about a 45 minute drive to get to this section of line that needed to be cleared. A couple of the local guys were already ahead of me accessing the damage and getting started.
Okay that is fine and dandy but what about this narrow little bridge? I see dually tire tracks that went over it, so they must have gone that way. It’s a little steep and really narrow. My first attempt, I tried just creeping over it in my 17,00 lb bucket truck.... Nope not gonna happen. I need a little run at it. So I backed up a little bit and Pushed the skinny pedal down a little further. Just as my front tires got onto the bridge, my back tires spun and the back of the truck slid to the passenger side really fast. HOLD UP!!
I tried to send my truck into the creek. Oops my bad... lol. With such a narrow bridge there was no way of getting out of this one by myself. So I radioed for help... no response. They must have been busy cutting trees off the line and can’t hear their radios. So I left the truck as is, grabbed my chainsaw and extendo stick and wondered back down the road. I saw some lines that were loaded up pretty heavily with snow and a few smaller trees that were leaned over the lines. So instead of just sitting there doin’ nothin’, I might as well get something done. We would end up doing as we made our way out anyway. Mind you, this whole section of Powerline is de-energized and a protective ground has been installed. The line is not energized. So it’s a free-for-all when cutting these smaller trees off the line. That is fun!!
As you can see in the above photo, the snow and ice can build up on the lines really good. That wire is about the size of a pencil and with the snow and ice it is bigger than my arm. So around 3-4 inches in diameter. The weight of the snow and ice can get pretty destructive. Breaking the poles, cross arms and wire, even sagging the wire down far enough to be caught on vehicles passing under them. Then you add the weight of a tree on that and you got some serious problems.
My Truck, oh ya, after a little bit I could hear over my loud speaker one of my fellow lineman responding to my distress call, if you will. Within a few minutes we got my truck out of its little predicament by using the winch from the other truck. Sometimes you just need a little nudge to get you out is a crappy situation. Lol. We ran the winch cable through a block (sheave) attached to a big stump and to the back of my truck. Putting a good amount of side pull on the back end of my truck. With all that tension pulling my truck to the side, I got in the truck put it into 2 wheel drive. Hit the gas a little bit to spin the tires. The side tension from the winch straightened the truck out on the bridge and I was able to back outta there.
Being that we really didn’t have any use for another bucket truck in there, I stuffed it off the side of the road and let it be. A couple hundred feet up the road and our line takes off into the woods. Every now and again you would pass under it, then it would disappear into the woods again.
“Give me a chainsaw and I will clean this section up”
Then off on foot I went, armed with a chainsaw and the hopes that these trees fall off the line without any further problems. Plus, I hope they aren’t too big because I only have a 16 in bar on my little “one-handed” chainsaw
It seemed to get worse as we made our way further up the creek. Tree after tree laid over onto the wire from all the weight of the snow. Plus the snow was still coming down in big flakes and every now and again a breeze would blow through and unload the trees right on your head. Now if you are not awake at that point... you surely are now!! Snow down the back of the neck can dang near raise the dead. Yee-Ow
One thing you need to know about Lineman. If there is the slightest chance we can get something to work... we will try it. Of course as long as it does not put anyone in harms way or cause any safety concerns or breaks any safety rules and guidelines. Now let me explain.... You see there was a good sized tree that was hanging on/over the line. Most of the smaller ones we can cut and they will lay on the line and we can kind of roll them off. The problem is when they get so big you risk breaking the wire or poles. We don’t want to create any more issues that we already have. Thwn we came across a large tree we werent to comfortable with falling in that manner. It was heavy!!! We need to find other ways to get it off the line. Limb the top of it and try to lighten it up a bit.
Can you see the Powerline?
So if we “think” we can get a bucket truck to it... after careful consideration we will always give it a try. Plus we always have a backup plan just on case things get a little wonky. Buried under the snow was some solid ground somewhere, we think, so we backed the truck in with no problems. Ya we had to cut some fallen trees out of the way to make a path but we got it in there and got that big tree off the line safely. So ya, getting the truck out didn’t go so well. His truck did the same thing mine did, the back end slipped to the side and down in a hole and he just couldn’t get it out of there. He had chains on the front tires for steering but none on the back. I said, “Welp, looks like we will have to come back in the springtime to recover this truck”
We got a few laughs in, then I headed off to cut some more trees off the line while they got the truck out. What the guys did was, just pull the other truck in nose first and use the winch to drag him out. I can’t tell you how often these winch lines on our trucks get used. Straightening poles, holding down on big wire while we cut trees off of it so the wire doesn’t sling shot and take someone’s head off, and of course rescue missions like this one.
Can you see the Powerline?
With only a few spans left before the end of the line, we found that one big tree had fallen and tore the line down. Of course it was laying across the road, so we needed to clean it out of the way anyway. The nice part was that the line crossed right over the road about mid span and we were able to use the bucket to get the wire back together and to the proper sag/tension. Finding the 2 ends of the wire was a different story. Tangled up in tree branches and bushes, it seemed like the end couldn’t be found. It doesn’t always work like that, so even though my truck was down the road my hooks were still with me in the back of the truck.
After one last check to make sure everything was good and all fuses had been refused and closed. We closed the sectionalizer and energized the line. It held!!! Thank goodness!! Let’s get the heck outta here before this wind starts blowing any harder and knocks a tree down on us!! Plus I could go for a hot shower about now.
This wasn’t too bad of a storm considering it was just one section of line. I have been on some big storms where dozens of crews aren’t working for over a week to get the lights turned on for everyone. 16 hours on and 8 hours off. That is after you work a 40 hour shift. I hope this brings a little better understanding to what Lineman do during the winter months battling the winter storms. Thanks for stopping by to check out another episode of...
“A Day With A Lineman”
Stay Clear of Downed Powerlines and trees
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