The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has planned for the whole year to be prepared in handling storm conditions, in order to avoid a repeat of what the island had gone through after Typhoon Soudelor’s onslaught in 2015.
CUC deputy executive director William Gilmore told Saipan Tribune that replacing wooden power poles to sturdier concrete poles is part of the plan. “CUC plans year round to be prepared to handle storm conditions.”
“We have also been replacing a significant number of wooden [power] poles with [concrete] poles to harden the power distribution system,” Gilmore added in an email sent to Saipan Tribune.
The replacement of power poles is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 406 hazard mitigation assistance program that included the project cost for labor, materials, and other equipment.
The assistance program, which was in cooperation the local Capital Improvement Project Administration, was 100 percent covered by FEMA. CUC is trying to meet the August deadline of replacing 787 wooden power poles that Typhoon Soudelor damaged in 2015.
Gilmore said clearing of debris and landscaping grounds and other areas around the island’s power poles are also part of their preparedness plans. “[It] includes eliminating materials that are lying loose that should be in stored in secure locations.”
“We also have a significant landscape maintenance program around all of our power poles and ground facilities so that we can minimize any trees and [branches] from falling onto power lines,” he added.
Gilmore said they had also filled CUC’s warehouse with materials that could be used in replacing that would be damaged in case of a strong storm or typhoon. “We also make sure that critical materials are stored in the warehouse so that most potential damage has a replacement part.”
“Just before a storm event begins to develop, CUC [fills] up all its fuel tanks on its vehicles and generators. A standby schedule is prepared for separate crews to report throughout the night. This allows for an immediate response by our fully trained crews,” he added.
Gilmore said power lines downed by Typhoon Maria were the cause of several outages in some villages on Saipan. “CUC has had three outages that have lasted approximately one hour each all due to downed primary power lines. The last one in San Vicente was fixed at about 1pm.”
He said that CUC relies on information provided by the public in addressing problems. “We rely extensively on calls into customer service to locate problems in the system.”
CUC’s hotline number is 236-4333 and customers can report downed power lines or poles and other disruption on power and water distribution.