Accused drunken motorist smashes out power throughout Hazelwood

It looks like the driver in this story is one of those who didn’t get the message to drive sober – or take a cab. Look at the aftermath of this tipsy drive …

NE Glisan Street was shut down for good reason: High-voltage power lines drooped low, after an allegedly drunken driver smashed through this utility pole, leaving it hanging by the wires.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The story about what transpired on October 20 at 8:46 p.m. on NE Glisan Street in the Hazelwood Neighborhood, about a block east of the Ringside Restaurant and across from Glendoveer Golf Course, is clear.

A white 1991 Honda Civic came whizzing eastbound on Glisan Street, veered off the road, and plowed through a utility pole, snapping it like a twig. The collision with the wooden pole stopped the Honda in front of a vacant house.

“I heard an explosion, and we saw what we thought was lightning outside our window, just before the lights went out,” said Fred Davis, a nearby neighbor. “As soon as the sparks stopped, everything was quiet – and very dark.”

A Portland Police Traffic Division officer checks over the smashed Honda, keeping a keen eye on the high-voltage power lines looming above his head.

Within minutes, Davis told us, police cars arrived. “I was surprised the driver could walk, after that wreck. It wasn’t long before a cop was doing a ‘drunk test’ with him. They put the guy in the back of a police car, not an ambulance.”

Police officers on-scene unofficially suggested to us that the driver of the errant Honda did, indeed, exhibit signs of being intoxicated.

Neighborhood plunged into darkness
Residents from blocks away walked up to the scene at NE Glisan St. at NE 141st Avenue, attracted by the red, glowing road flares, and the red/blue flashing emergency lights on the patrol cars which cordoned off the thoroughfare.

The neighbors all told us they came to see what killed their power that evening. At the start of the incident, more than 2,000 customers were without power; traffic signals and street lamps were doused.

A PGE “Eagle Team” crewmember inspects the damage to the de-energized power line, transformer, and street lamp.

PGE to the rescue
Neighbors were amazed at how quickly the first “Eagle Team” from Portland General Electric arrived at the crash scene.

“The reason for the large outage,” explained Portland General Electric public information specialist Steven Corson, “is that damaged pole carried a ‘feeder’ line.”  These lines, usually strung at the top of very tall utility poles, are energized at 12,470 volts, we learned. They distribute power from a substation to neighborhood networks. “Consequently the accident disrupted power to about 2,000 customers.”

PGW crew members pulled the line breakers on either side of the damage, getting power back on before we left the scene. “By rerouting power to restore service, the majority of our customers had their power restored by 11 pm,” Corson reported. “Then, crews worked through the night to replace the pole and repair other damage.”

People at the scene said that it was the person seated in the back of this police car who had been driving the smashed Honda, albeit poorly, minutes before.

By the first light of morning, no one would have known, simply by looking, that there had been a serious crash at that location the night before.

Everyone pays for one’s drunken deeds
As an afterthought, we asked Corson, “Does the driver who damages a utility pole pay for repairing the damage they caused?”

Corson said he wanted to do some research to be sure of his answer. When he called back a short time later, he said, “The answer is no, they don’t. Ratepayers (all PGE customers) pay for repairing and replacing the utility poles.”

According to Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Detective Mary Wheat, the driver was arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants and transported to the Multnomah County Detention Facility.

After detaching the feeder lines from the insulators, the utility pole falls lower.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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