PG&E struggles in Sierra power restoration

Pacific Gas and Electric has had so much snow country damage, that it is putting all its hands on deck and calling in reserves to do repairs between storms.  

In an Auburn news conference on Friday, PG&E explained the extreme levels of difficulties, in the most difficult terrain, is a problem that it’s facing.

Because December snowfall totals have broken records in many areas of the Sierra, damage to the PG&E system has skyrocketed, so much so, the utility is still assessing all of it. " We expect to see over 5,000 separate locations with damage that our crews will have to safely work to restore," said PG&E Vice President Joe Wilson.

Power outages are widespread with about half of the 70,000 foothills and mountain dweller restored from this week's storms. The relative slowness of restoration lies in access and danger to crews, including high avalanches risks, extremely cold temperatures, deep snow, iciness, sudden falling trees, downed trees, downed power equipment and terrible terrain. 

"We have to snow shoe into some of these areas, literally snow shoe in because of the remoteness of our assets," said PG&E Chief Operations Officer Adam Wright.

Assessing the damage, let alone repairing it is providing to be a monumental task. 

SEE ALSO: Sierra smashes snowiest December on record

"The break in weather that we've seen recently, yesterday was the very first day we had clear skies to be able to fly out lines. This is gonna help us to assess our facilities," Wright said on Friday. 

Even with six helicopters combing the lines for damage, it still adds up to big delays in actually getting the lights back on, even with massive mutual aid on the way. "We have reached out to 100 other utilities," said Wright.

Because of the remoteness, almost everyone will be restored by January 5, but those few in the most inaccessible locations may have to wait two weeks.