Snowstorm Severs Power To 6,000 Homes And Businesses


Giving her biweekly weather report from her Main Street home, National Weather Service observer Anna Mae Deming sounded giddy as she talked about the snow that blanketed the arid Rim country Monday and Tuesday.

The storm brought much-needed moisture to the forest, which had only received 4.33 inches of moisture since October, but it also left 6,000 Rim country households and businesses without electricity.

By Tuesday morning, Deming had measured nine inches of snow at her home on Main Street, but the outlying areas probably got much more.

Shawn Alberts said he measured 15 inches of snow on his deck in Verde Glen Tuesday morning.

"I'm sure there's a lot more out there in the forest, but around here, that's about all I got," he said.

On top of the Mogollon Rim, Forest Lakes was covered by as much as 36 inches of snow.

"We haven't had a chance to groom any of the trails yet, but they'll be ready by this weekend," said Lydia Seales, who's managing the Forest Lakes Touring Center for her son, Tim Grier.

"It's absolutely beautiful up here," Seales said Tuesday morning, "but we haven't had electricity until yesterday."

In the dark

The power outages have been the most challenging part of the storm, said Jim Spencer, Payson district manager for Arizona Public Service.

"At the height of the storm, a total of 6,000 APS customers were without electric service," Spencer said.

Outages were first reported at about 3 a.m. Monday, when heavy snow and ice piled up on distribution lines and caused power brownouts. Trees snapping under the weight of the wet snow also led to countless power interruptions.

Spencer said his company sent up 25 additional workers to help his 19 linemen get the power back on. Tuesday morning, after a sleepless night at the service center, Spencer said crews were making slow progress.

"We've got power back up in East Verde Park, but we've had a couple of additional outages reported in Strawberry," Spencer said. "Power's still out in Mesa del, and we're having a lot of trouble getting power back in the Country Club Vistas area."

Spencer said the weight of the wet snow caused a domino effect, knocking out power in one place after another.

"It has been a frustrating experience for our customers and employees," he said. "It seemed like we would make one repair and immediately, two other outages would occur." He said his crews and the visiting crews will work around the clock until power is restored to all areas of the Rim country.

Shelter from the storm

Town of Payson employees set up an emergency shelter in the Rim Country Middle School gym for people without power or heat. There, residents had a warm place to wait out the storm until power was restored to their neighborhoods.

"We had only two citizens take advantage of that," Fire Chief John Ross said Tuesday. However, the school gymnasium did serve as shelter for 14 undocumented travelers from Mexico and Guatemala).

"Everything went beyond smooth," said Bill Schwind, parks and recreation director and town public information officer. "It all went pretty much identical to the emergency preparedness drill the town conducted in November.

"John Ross was the incident commander. We had the operation center up and running at Town Hall. We were distributing information to the public and got the shelter ready with alternative power sources lined up. It went really well."

Ross said the emergency shelter will remain open as long as it's needed, but at this point, most people seem to be fending for themselves.

The olden days

At 90 years old, Kay Loftfield was one of the hearty souls who braved the storm from their own homes, even without electricity.

"The power went out about 8:30 Monday morning," Loftfield said. "I was real fortunate, I guess. I have an insert that I can put in the fireplace for cooking, which saved me from starving to death."

Loftfield said as soon as the electricity went out, she put a teakettle on the stove to make coffee, then was able to toast an English muffin on it. "That was my breakfast," she said. "Later on, about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I opened a can of chicken noodle soup, heated that up and that was my supper.

"It was kind of like reliving the olden days," she said, "but I think I'm ready to have the modern conveniences back."

Deming said Tuesday that the National Weather Service predicted that the storm that hit the Rim country Monday will be gone by Tuesday night. Another storm is expected to move into the area Thursday, she said, but it's not expected to be as severe.

The weather should be clearing by Friday, she said. "It's sure been beautiful, though."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.