Power outages, treacherous roads persist for Seabeck residents

·6 min read
Patrick Choiniere with MLS Enterprise works to restore downed communication lines on NW Stavis Bay Road in Seabeck on Wednesday. The Kitsap-based company contracts with Wave Broadband, Kitsap Public Utility District and other communications providers in Kitsap County.
Patrick Choiniere with MLS Enterprise works to restore downed communication lines on NW Stavis Bay Road in Seabeck on Wednesday. The Kitsap-based company contracts with Wave Broadband, Kitsap Public Utility District and other communications providers in Kitsap County.

SEABECK — Without power and any source of heat, Billy and Carol Englebright remain huddled under blankets all day to keep warm in their home off Seabeck Holly Road.

They can't afford to wait much longer. Billy, who relies on an oxygen machine, hasn't been able to use it since the power went out Sunday morning.

"We'll just hang on, surely we're going to get our power back soon," his wife said of his response.

Yet each day, Carol said, Puget Sound Energy pushes back the estimated time of their electricity's return.

They can't leave home. The layers of snow and ice have completely blocked the Englebright's driveway, all the way to Seabeck Holly Road.

The couple's only help has been a neighbor who trekked through snow up to his knees to bring coffee and groceries.

"Were it not for my neighbor, I don't know what we would've done," she said.

About 360 customers in Seabeck were like the Englebrights on Wednesday, still waiting for power to return after losing it on Sunday evening when a snowstorm dumped 6 inches or more of heavy fresh snow, snapping trees and glazing roads with ice, making many treacherous and impassable.

Many residents have been confined to their homes for days, trying to stay warm as power crews and road crews work to make the area habitable again. According to PSE, 2,987 customers lost power in Kitsap County between Sunday and Monday.

Ashley Kejsar lives in Lake Symington, one of the Seabeck communities that have been without power since Sunday. Her family of four doesn't have a generator but has been keeping warm with their fireplace, cooking with a camp stove, and getting light through a borrowed lantern.

The Montana native said she's used to harsh winters, but not power outages that are typical for Western Washington. She said she's grateful for her neighbors' generosity in the use of their generator power to charge battery packs and cell phones

"We wouldn't be in such a good place if it wasn't for such amazing neighbors," she said.

The family of four keeps busy — the parents stoking the fire and the kids playing Legos and games. But on Wednesday, Kejsar said the family's patience was starting to wear.

"Lack of communication or upfront communication from PSE has been frustrating," she said. "We used to get our hopes up and then watch that time go by."

PSE said that by Wednesday, power was returned to 90% who lost it in Kitsap County. The company estimated that the majority of customers whose power was still out on Wednesday in Seabeck would have it restored by 11 p.m., said Jarrett Tomalin, Puget Sound Energy's Customer Communication Manager.

Tomalin said that crews were delayed in making repairs in some areas because of harsh road conditions.

"If we go into an area where there's a lot of dumped trees, access is a bit harder," Tomalin said. "It might take a little bit more time and we'll have a crew go out, do that quick fix, while we're trying to figure, okay, how can we work through an area that's a little bit more difficult to access."

Customers said they have been watching estimated restoration times closely.

"It's supposed to be on at noon today and I just don't believe it," Kejsar said on Wednesday morning.

Snowy, impassable roads were a hurdle to both power crews and residents.

But Kitsap County Public Works spokesman Doug Bear said Wednesday morning that in some places, road crews had to wait for power lines to be repaired before continuing with clearing.

"When the tree falls and brings down power lines, we can't do anything until Puget Sound Energy comes out and secures the power lines," Bear said. "Certainly, we can't risk people's lives trying to cut into something where there might be electrical power into it."

School closures

For those in drier parts of Kitsap, the closure of schools may have been confounding.

Schools in the Central Kitsap School District were closed on Monday because of the large amount of snow that accumulated in the Seabeck, Holly and Crosby areas overnight, according to David Beil, a spokesman for the CK School District. Tuesday's classes were canceled districtwide because of snowy and icy road conditions across the district. Wednesday’s closure was a result of icy road conditions on the westside, Seabeck and Bangor areas of the district school district.

"We are disappointed that weather and road conditions have prevented the start of school in the new year," Beil said.

CKSD started by announcing a two-hour delay on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. As crews began driving roads in the morning hours, the district determined that weather and road conditions in parts of the district would not allow schools to open safely. Once this determination was made, school was then canceled, Beil said.

During bad weather scenarios, district staff begins driving roads by 2 a.m. assessing roads for snow and ice, checking school parking lots, bus stops and bus routes, as well as noting any updates by Kitsap County road crews in plowing and de-icing efforts. During the 5 o'clock hour, the district makes a decision to open, delay or close school for the day. By 6 a.m. the district informs families of any schedule changes, Beil said.

All 19 school campuses in Central Kitsap are plowed, shoveled and de-iced, and the district crew will be out at 2 a.m. again on Thursday morning assessing roads, Beil said, in the hopes that students and staff can come back.

In addition to Central Kitsap, North Kitsap and North Mason have also closed schools this week. Schools in the South Kitsap and Bremerton school districts were delayed as a result of road conditions.

Winter weather advisory

Meantime, those weary from outages were casting a wary eye to the weather forecast. As of Wednesday morning, a winter weather advisory was issued for Kitsap County, with a possible accumulation of 1 to 4 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The snow is expected to be followed by rainfall Thursday through Friday, said Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Seattle. Initially, that rain could fall as freezing rain.

Areas of Seabeck and those close to Hood Canal could see 2 to 4 inches of snow; while 1 to 2 inches of snow is anticipated in the eastern part of the county, Kristell said.

The temperature is forecast to be in the low to mid-30s on Wednesday, and warming up to the mid- to upper-40s on Thursday, Kristell said.

Reach breaking news reporter Peiyu Lin at pei-yu.lin@kitsapsun.com. Reach reporter Josh Farley at josh.farley@kitsapsun.com. Reach local news editor Kimberly Rubenstein @kimberly.rubenstein@kitsapsun.com.

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This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Power outages, treacherous roads persist for Seabeck residents

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