Los Alamos, NM, USA — For the second time in 12 days a microburst behind Chapel Apartments on Rose Street downed power lines causing outages around the community.
The wind was so fierce it forced a tree onto an overhead power line at 7:30 p.m. Monday, snapping three utility poles, activating the electric switchgear and shutting power off to the entire Los Alamos townsite, according to a county release.
Transformers from each of the three utility poles came crashing to the ground between the apartments and the United Church.
On May 9, a similar windburst blew a branch onto a power line in the same area behind Chapel Apartments causing a power outage, also at about 7:30 p.m. When power was restored an hour later, the surge sparked a grass fire from the downed wires, which LAFD quickly doused.
Both recent incidents provided Los Alamos fire, police and utility personnel an opportunity to put their skills to the test.
On both occasions, LAFD arrived in less than five minutes, took command and prevented potential catastrophes. Police moved in and evacuated residents located in the danger zones and controlled traffic flow to the area. Utilities personnel jumped in to handle electrical issues. They worked through the night securing dangling wires and removing massive amounts of fallen debris. Crews continued working today to restore power.
All three entities worked together as a team with precision and speed and they left the area clean for returning residents.
Last night Fire Chief Doug MacDonald, Deputy Fire Chief Doug Tucker, Police Chief Wayne Torpy, Los Alamos County Department of Utilities Manager Robert Monday and Los Alamos County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Philmont Taylor were all on the scene because of the magnitude of the situation.
Taylor provided preparedness tips for residents.
He said a reverse 911 call to affected residents was launched at 8:40 this morning.
“The message told residents that strong gusty winds tore through Los Alamos County leaving areas of the townsite, North Mesa and Barranca Mesa without power,” Taylor said. “While power in most of these areas was restored last night, there still remains an isolated pocket of the townsite bordered by 23rd and 24th streets, Rose Street and Canyon Road without power.”
Taylor said that crews would be working throughout the day to restore power, and hope to have service restored by late this afternoon or early evening.
Taylor cautioned residents to avoid all downed power lines.
“Residents are further reminded that while freezer items should remain viable for up to 24 hours, they should exercise caution with refrigerated foodstuffs, and to discard dairy items such as milk and cheese,” Taylor said.
He strongly urges people to install old-fashioned telephones in their homes that plug directly into the wall.
Taylor explained that cordless phones go out during power outages because they are powered by electricity while old-fashioned phones are not.
Taylor said he is able to track and determine that only about half of the residents called during the reverse 911 call this morning answered their phones including those whose answering machines picked up.
The remainder came back undeliverable because those residents most likely had cordless phones that remain useless during power outages, he said.
“We’re going to have power outages up here and people should prepare by having two things,” Taylor said. “An old fashioned telephone and working flashlights with extra batteries or the battery-less type now on the market.”
Taylor added that candles should not be used because people fall asleep and can burn their houses down.