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Some PNM customers were without power for 4 days

PNM journeyman lineman Isaac Padilla, left, and foreman Joe Arnett work on a line in Albuquerque on Wednesday after storm cut power to 15,000. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Public Service Company of New Mexico says all customers who lost power during last week’s record-breaking storms are now back online – but some were without electricity for four days.

“Many people thought it was just one major outage and we could just flip the switch to turn power back on, but it was a huge number of little outages,” PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval said. “Nature wrecked with the entire system and it took time to repair everything.”

Up to 70 mph winds blasted through Albuquerque and other areas during last Tuesday’s storm, kicking up debris and downing trees that then toppled into power lines around the city, causing more than 400 outages in the Albuquerque area.

At one point, about 15,000 residential customers were without electricity.

Restoring power was time-consuming, because of the huge number of outages across the city and because each incident required individual repairs that often took hours to fix, such as replacing poles and power lines, rewiring infrastructure, and removing trees and debris that in many cases caused safety hazards.

“In one case, the wind blew down a tree that knocked down poles and wires in an alley behind a house,” PNM spokeswoman Meaghan Cavanaugh said. “It took crews using a crane about 15 hours to repair it.”

The company said all outages were repaired as of Saturday morning.

“Nobody is without power from the storm now,” Cavanaugh said Monday. “If there are any individual customers still affected, we ask that they report it to us. But we’re not showing anyone on the system now who is out from last week.”

Such widespread outages are relatively rare; PNM’s last major outage occurred in 2013 when a winter storm knocked a significant percentage of customers offline, Cavanaugh said.

Tuesday’s storm affected some major distribution lines, along with a huge array of smaller ones that feed electricity into neighborhoods and individual homes.

PNM first repaired the larger, central lines to immediately restore power to the greatest number of customers. It also concentrated on damage that caused safety hazards before moving on to smaller power lines.

That allowed the company to fairly rapidly restore electricity to most customers. But about 2,000 residences were still without power by Thursday evening.

In many cases, the outages affected only certain sections of neighborhoods, or certain houses in a given area, because different lines fed into different clusters of homes, Sandoval said. That created confusion, and often frustration, among customers dealing with outages even though their neighbors had power.

Utility crews from around the state assisted PNM operations teams in the Albuquerque area to restore service, including a crew from El Paso Electric in southern New Mexico.

“It was a huge, collaborative effort to restore power as soon as possible,” Cavanaugh said. “We worked around the clock.”

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