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Snowpocalypse 2014: No Match for Our Dispatchers, Crews, & Urgent Responders

By Lindsay Wochnick

In early February, the Portland metro area experienced a winter storm with rounds of snow, ice and freezing rain that caused power outages and shutdown the city, roads and highways for nearly a week. While residents were urged to stay inside, Portland Water Bureau (PWB) dispatchers, Maintenance & Construction (M&C) crews, staff, and urgent responders addressed customer and system issues around the clock.

Over a five-day period beginning on Friday, February 7th, Water Bureau dispatchers received, processed, and sent crews and responders out to more than 1000 calls for service.

During this extreme weather event, nine main breaks occurred, with five alone happening on Sunday, February 9th. Two of those breaks were significant ruptures that required pipe replacement on a 20-inch diameter main on SE 20th Avenue at SE Powell Boulevard and a 12-inch diameter main just down the street on SE 22nd Avenue and SE Lafayette Street. The Powell and Lafayette breaks required the replacement of many feet of pipe. 

The 83-year old 20-inch cast iron pipe that ruptured at the Powell main break. 
The 83-year old 20-inch cast iron pipe that ruptured at the Powell main break.

As crews rushed to repair main breaks occurring around the city, urgent responders kept pace, responding to calls for help with frozen plumbing on the residential side, emergency shut-offs for customers who had leaks in their homes due to frozen pipes, and several hydrants hit by vehicles.  As temperatures began to warm, thawing broken pipes began revealing themselves, creating new challenges that required a sustained response. 

Water Bureau crews’ hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff and Commissioner Nick Fish toured several of the water main break sites, praising and thanking the hard working crews.

In a citywide email, Commissioner Fish wrote, “On behalf of the City Council, I’d like to thank all of our dedicated City employees for their outstanding work during the winter storm. During four challenging days, everyone rolled up their sleeves and took care of business.” 

Commissioner Nick Fish on-scene at a water main break talking to the media. 
Commissioner Nick Fish on-scene at a water main break talking to the media.

Fish then went onto thank and express his appreciation specifically to Water Bureau employees, stating, “PWB employees assisted residents with frozen pipes and swiftly responded to water main breaks.” 

M&C crew at the Powell main break. 
M&C crew at the Powell main break.

With a week of inclement weather that will surely go down in Portland history, Water Bureau staff and crews rose to the challenge yet again.  Their well-prepared emergency response, outstanding customer service, and personal sacrifices were greatly appreciated and a testament to the pride they take in their work.

Lindsay Wochnick
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