Scammers are using new methods as they renew their calls to Grays Harbor PUD customers. PUD Customer Service staff have reported receiving phone calls from customers who were contacted by phone AND email threatening to shutoff power if immediate payment is not made on accounts they claim are delinquent. In some cases, the contacts include recorded utility voice messages and letterhead in an attempt to appear legitimate.
“It’s a different, more sophisticated method by these scammers but the PUD’s message remains unchanged: the scams only work if you volunteer your personal information," says Customer Service Director Katy Moore. "If you get an email or phone call threatening to shut off your power or containing account information you think is suspicious, call the PUD Customer Service office to report the scams and to check on your account status.”
Recipients of such fraudulent phone calls and mailings should under no circumstances agree to send money or give bank account, credit card or other personal information. Rather, customers are advised to immediately contact PUD Customer Service at 360-532-4220 to verify the claim.
Most stories of animals getting too close to power lines end badly for the animal, which is what makes what happened over the weekend in Moclips so wonderful. At 8:00 on Sunday morning. Derek Hnilica and Aaron Wallin were called to the 2700 block of SR 109 by a report of a cat stuck at the top of one of the PUD poles. When they arrived, they found the cat laying on a crossarm, 40 feet above the ground and just inches from live power lines. According to neighbors, the cat had been up the pole for many hours and would not come down because of barking dogs in nearby yards. Working with dispatchers, the service crew was able to de-energize the lines (briefly affecting power to Pacific Beach and Seabrook) and reached the cat using the utility service truck. Without suffering a scratch or bite, Hnilica was able to safely pluck the cat from it’s dangerous perch and return it to the relatively safe confines of terra firma proving beyond a doubt that the PUD’s outstanding customer service does not stop at two legged customers.
The Grays Harbor Public Utility District is notifying customers on the Sund Road, Delezenne Road and surrounding area of a planned power outage beginning at 9:00 AM on Thursday, May 2, 2019. The outage is expected to last until roughly 2:00 PM on that day and will affect around 100 customers.
The outage will affect customers on Sund Road, Delezenne Road, Raspberry Road, Mountain View Lane and Minot Peak. During the outage, PUD crews will replace an aging pole, hang new wire and carry out maintenance work. Impacted customers will be notified by phone in the days leading up to the outage.
In preparation for this outage, customers are advised to take precautions with any electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, and microwaves by unplugging those items. You should leave them disconnected until after the power has been fully restored.
The outage time of five hours is only an estimate and power could be restored at anytime as work is completed. Therefore, it is not safe to do electrical work or repairs during that period.
Grays Harbor PUD customers experienced fewer power outages, interruptions and hours without power in 2018. A review of the utility system found that all three areas fell from 2017 totals and all were below the previous five-year average.
In 2018, PUD customers experienced 296 outages compared to 315 in 2017. That total was well below the five-year average of 400. The total number of customers out of power fell from over 73,000 in 2017 to 54,446, while the total number of impacted customer hours fell from over 264,000 to 198,483.
“This information lets us know what has been working and where we need to put more emphasis. When we budget for projects for the coming year these totals help point us to the spots that need our attention,” said PUD Commission President Russ Skolrood. “I’m very proud that our crews and engineers have built and are maintaining a system that is standing up to the heavy weather and environment we experience on the Washington coast.’
Tree and branch falls and storm related issues were the cause of 62% of the 2018 outages, a common culprit of Grays Harbor power interruptions over the years. Major storm events in December of 2018 accounted for well over half of the impacted customer hours, however an aggressive vegetation management program is credited with helping reduce those totals.
“Staying ahead of tree and plant growth is so important to our system reliability,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “Without the recurring cycle of tree trimming, removal and mowing, these outage numbers would be rising rather than falling. Our crews and contract tree crews have done a great job of staying on top of the tree growth that boarder our power lines.”
In addition to trees and storms, car versus pole collisions accounted for 16% of the total outages in 2018, while outages caused by equipment or mechanical failure came in at just 12%.
Improving financial conditions and a colder winter will allow the Grays Harbor PUD to implement a smaller than expected rate increase in 2019. On Monday, the PUD Commissioners voted to adopt a 2.25% increase in customer rates, effective May 1st. The commissioners had originally set a 2.5% increase, effective April 1st when they passed the 2019 budget last November.
“Not only were we able to delay the increase by one month, but for the second straight year, we were able to approve a smaller increase than we had budgeted for,” said Commission President Russ Skolrood. “Waiting until the spring avoids increasing rates during cold weather, high energy usage months and it allows the utility time to assess its financial state and have a better idea of what size the increase needs to be.”
Under the new rate schedule an average customer bill, using 1200-kilowatt hours per month, will see an increase of $2.67. The commissioners pointed to rising power costs of over a half-million dollars and a projected rate increase by the Bonneville Power Administration of 2.9% in the fall as the main reason for the increase.
“We know that when rates go up, it has a big impact on our customers,” said Skolrood. “Times are hard and every dollar counts. That is why our staff has worked to contain and control internal costs and we have worked with our partners at Bonneville, and in Olympia and Washington DC to keep power costs as low as they can practically be.”