Biber gets another power failure and runs out of water!

December 21, 2005
Copyright 2005

About 3 O'clock Wednesday afternoon during a period of unusually heavy rainfall, Bieber was hit by another power failure.  This time, areas north of Bieber served by Surprise Valley Electric were not affected.

The town's water supply which is pumped from the ground by electricity into a 30,000 gallon tank ran dry somewhere between midnight and 3 AM. This situation is the same as happened during the November 7, 2005 storm. The power was restored by 11 AM  that morning and townspeople were spared the 2 days without utilities which happened last time.  This also was much warmer weather than the snow storm which caused the November outage.

Running out of water this fast was a surprise for the water district. Leaflets advising people to take extreme conservation measures in case of power failures were sent to customers in last month's water bill. Despite this, water still ran out . Steve Jackson, the water district's manager could only speculate that there must be a large leak in the system draining the water much faster than expected.  After last month's failure there was some suspicion that there may be a leak or broken pipe, but an inspection of the town failed to reveal one.  It is still a mystery as to why the water runs out so quickly.  Jackson is aware of how serious this problem is and now that he feels that careless water use by customers is not the problem, he intends to investigate further.  Jackson points out that it is difficult to detect water leaks during the rainy season as everything is wet! He also points out that the rapid drainage could be accounted for by a single broken water service line running at full blast. Today's first job however is to take water samples down to a lab for safety analysis, and to purge the city's water lines.

PG and E says that the outage was caused by a downed 60,000 volt line in a remote area on the line from Pit 1 Power House (that's the one near the Pit River Lodge off 299) to McArthur. The area was remote and difficult to get to because of the wet weather and rugged terrain.  A snow cat was needed in order to get to the damaged pole.  The outage affected 1768 customers in the Bieber and McArthur area.