Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Alan W. Fletcher disclosed Friday that the utilities corporation has been suffering from a rash of weather related power interruptions.
While weather this season has so far not been extreme, he said the recent heavy rains and moderate winds are taking a toll on the island’s fragile electrical transmission and distribution systems.
“The outages we have experienced of late are weather and location dependent. Currently there a no customer outages and CUC has placed crews on standby,” he told Saipan Tribune.
He described the series of power interruptions as “localized outages.”
“If we have severe weather, we are prone to some localized outages due to trees and branches falling into lines. CUC will continue with short-term planned outages for system maintenance,” he added.
Last Friday, the saturated ground resulted in trees toppling into power lines and causing outages. Last week, the outage to CUC’s Feeder 2 line was due to the blustery weather that puts extra stress on worn support hardware systems, causing failures.
“The primary causes of the most recent weather related outages include deteriorated power pole hardware and fallen tree branches,” according to Fletcher, adding that most affected has been Feeder 4, which serves Lower Base, Sadog Tasi, Capital Hill, Talafofo, As Teo, Kagman, and Papago.
“The interruptions began early Wednesday morning and continued throughout the day. Multiple CUC line-crews were on call to address the problems as they were received. The crews were rotated throughout the 24 hours to ensure that all calls were responded to,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, while severe weather triggers outages in a “pole and wires” system, CUC’s system is especially prone to failure due to its worn state. CUC’s line-crews are forced to work in a more reactive mode to outages, instead of preemptive replacement of hardware. Fletcher disclosed that much of the hardware was installed years ago and has been severely degraded by rain and salt spray from the coastline.
“[Transmission and distribution] systems maintenance is being performed on a regular basis, including current work on Rota, upgrading feeder and power-generation systems. More work is required, though, and is hampered by a lack of inventories and equipment,” he said.
Fletcher urges customers to take precautions and prepare for sporadic outages if a major weather system hits the CNMI. “In addition, always be wary of any downed electrical wire and treat all downed wire as ‘live’ and stay away,” said Fletcher.
If customers observe downed wire or experience outages, call 664-4CUC (664-4282) and report it to CUC’s Call Center.