Power outage at Wallowa Lake temporarily shuts off water supply

Written by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer August 14, 2013 10:20 am

Due to a failure in the alarm system at the Wallowa Lake water supply, residents and guests of the mountain village were without water Monday morning. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
Due to a failure in the alarm system at the Wallowa Lake water supply, residents and guests of the mountain village were without water Monday morning. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
 

JOSEPH — A lightning strike at Wallowa Lake Sunday night blew a switch shutting off water for residents of the mountain village and Wallowa Lake State Park.

Mike Hayward, chairman of the board of commissioners, said a strike somewhere near a transformer on a power pole blew a switch. 

“By doing that, it shut the pump off for the well and the pump off for the state park’s springs,” Hayward said. “Normally, if that happens we are just operating off of the reservoir and when it gets down to a certain level an alarm calls cellphones, but the strike may have done something to the alarm system.”

When the power that runs the pump from the reservoir or the springs shuts off a call should automatically go to two cellphones.

“It did not call the cellphones. So the result was we didn’t know we had a water problem until we had no water,” Hayward said.

By Monday morning the state park, the inns, hotels and homes had extremely low water pressure. 

“Both pumps were turned back on and Pacific Power and Light flipped the switch on for the transformer,” Hayward said.

Wallowa Lake State Park administrators shut off their irrigation to help build the reservoir’s capacity and Hayward said the reservoir, south of the lake, was filled by early Tuesday morning.

Before Wallowa Lake District was formed to manage the water for homes and businesses around the lake, there were as many as five systems, Hayward said. There were more outages then, but they weren’t as far reaching, affecting fewer people at a time. Since the district was formed in 1988, there have been fewer outages.

“It has gone out before and the cellphone communication worked — this time that part didn’t work,” he said.

To prevent this from happening, the board members of the district are looking to different solutions, like a siren at the reservoir that goes off when the water gets below a certain level, Hayward said.

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