Avista employee recalls waiting out the November Windstorm - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Avista employee recalls waiting out the November Windstorm

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An Avista lineman works after windstorm 2015. An Avista lineman works after windstorm 2015.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

On November 17, 2015, the region was under siege by 70 mph winds.

Like bombs exploding throughout the night, the sound of snarling, hissing, and crackling power lines could be heard in the midst of deafening winds.

“I don’t think anybody had a clue of the magnitude of what we’d really be dealing with,” said Vice President of Energy Delivery for Avista, Heather Rosentrater. “It looked like a war zone. Anyone who saw it felt that way.”

Rosentrater remembers the storm like it was yesterday. She watched inside a packed room filled with monitors as people started losing power by the thousands.

“As the numbers kept ticking up every 10 minutes you could just feel the anxiousness in the room increase,” said Rosentrater. “By the time the meeting was over, maybe 40 minutes into it, we were up to almost 100,000 customers without power.”

In an effort to get power back online, Avista crews met the storm head-on.

“They’re up in a bucket truck and a tree is falling down somewhere nearby,” said Rosentrater. “So once we started hearing those reports we said everyone out, we need to wait this out, wait until the winds die down.”

With the risk too great, Rosentrater pulled the line crews from danger until the storm passed.

“There's no way you can design a system to withstand these mature trees that are just coming up by their roots and pulling down our poles,” said Rosentrater. “You just saw everyone get on their phones and call home and say ‘it’s going to be a while until we get home’.”

The storm’s blow left its destructive mark on the area. The damage it caused in one swift night took weeks to restore.

“The first four days I didn’t see my kids at all.”

Rosentrater recalls the emotional toll of not seeing her family, but at no point did she feel alone.

“I loved it when I would drive into work in the middle of the night and I would start seeing business signs that would say thank you Avista and we love you Avista,” said Rosentrater. “It made me want to go back to work and get the rest of the customers back on.”

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