Driving mishap darkens 10,000 Hazelwood homes – and beyond

Find out why less than a dollar’s worth of change led to thousands of families having to go without their morning coffee, a warm shower, or television, on this Saturday morning …

Drivers had to find their way through Hazelwood neighborhood side streets, when they found this section of NE Glisan Street was completely closed off – due to the accident that downed a utility pole.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With their power out for most of the last Saturday morning in March – as far west as Montavilla – many outer NE Portland residents wondered what could have caused such a widespread power outage.

About 7:30 a.m. on March 27, a van traveling westbound on SE Glisan Street slammed into a wooden utility pole, snapping it in half. These tall utility poles carry high-power 12,000-volt branch circuit “feeder lines” that distribute electricity to a wide area.

Even before crews from Portland General Electric (local TV stations misidentified it as a Pacific Power area, although their customers were also affected) started to untangle the snarl of electric, telephone, and cable wires that anchor to the poles, PGE workers started rerouting electricity, returning power to some of the 10,000 homes affected – as soon as 9:00 a.m.

However, with traffic signals out until mid-afternoon, at busy intersections such as NE 122nd Avenue at Glisan Street, Saturday traffic quickly snarled, and impatient drivers honked their horns – while workers at nearby fast-food restaurants stood outside their darkened, shuttered shops, and took in the sunshine.

Before replacing the utility pole, PGE crews make sure that electric, telephone, and cable-TV wires are ready to be remounted on the new pole.

According to police, the driver of the van was headed west on NE Glisan when he dropped some change on the floor of the vehicle, just after picking up his drive-through breakfast. When he leaned over to pick it up, the van drifted off the roadway, and rammed the utility pole at SE 116th Place.

Although his van was totaled in the accident, police say the driver wasn’t seriously injured, and won’t be cited. Perhaps they believed he had suffered enough, with the ruin of his breakfast-to-go.

This PGE Lineman didn’t grumble about being called out on a Saturday morning. “We really do, ‘Do this every day!’” he called out to us.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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