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Update: Major storm hits San Juan County

High winds, heavy rain and golf ball-size hail cause extensive damage
An arroyo next to Farmer’s Ditch in Flora Vista flowed over the banks at 6:57 p.m. on Friday evening. (David Edward Albright/Tri-City Record)

Over the weekend, communities in the San Juan County and Navajo Nation experienced a substantial amount of rainfall that left power outages and road wreckage. High winds, heavy rain and hail caused utility and communications failure and extensive property damage.

Devin Neeley, San Juan County public relations/film manager, stated in an email Friday that storms caused phone and internet service to fail at many county facilities. Included were the San Juan County Adult, Juvenile and Alternative Detention Centers.

With most county offices closed over the weekend, the outage might not be a problem for most operations, but the detention facilities operate around the clock, Neeley said at the time.

“There should be no change to operations, but as you imagine, getting ahold of someone may be a challenge, and if you rely on email communication, that may be impossible,” said Neeley.

He said utility crews worked to restore power to customers first, then worked on fiber optic connections.

“This outage does not affect the San Juan County Communications Center,” Neeley said.

Neeley said Monday that phone and internet service was restored Sunday morning.

McGee Park was hit with flooding, which county crews cleaned up. They also worked on county-maintained roads to make sure they were passable.

Neeley said continuity of operation plans are in place for all county departments, which allowed operations to continue uninterrupted.

“I don’t have specifics on the cause of the outage,” he said.

On Saturday, the office of the Navajo Nation reported water and power outages on the reservation that started Friday afternoon. (Navajo Nation Facebook)

On Saturday, the office of the Navajo Nation reported water and power outages on the reservation that started Friday afternoon.

“A regionwide power outage affecting Utah areas of the Navajo Nation includes the communities of Mexican Water, Bluff, Aneth, Red Mesa, White Mesa and Montezuma Creek,” the news release said.

No fatalities, injuries or loss of livestock were reported to the Navajo Nation Police Department, according to the news release.

Structural damage to households were reported, said NPD Commander Rory Atcitty on Saturday.

“So far, impacted areas that we know of are Chinle, southeastern Utah, Montezuma Creek, Red Mesa and Aneth, and then Shiprock, Gadii'ahi, Cove, Red Valley, Sanostee and Naschitti areas,” Atcitty said.

With roads washed out by the rain, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority had a delay in repairing and restoring electrical power, according to a Navajo Nation news release Saturday. (Navajo Nation Facebook)

With roads washed out by the rain, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority was delayed in its attempts to repair and restore electrical power, the release said.

“We are setting up a structure in Montezuma Creek for a cooling station and also for a temporary power bank so people can recharge cellphones or whatever,” Atcitty said.

The structure is at the old Montezuma Creek clinic, and the news release included that a mobile command unit was being deployed to the Red Mesa Chapter.

“For the communities in Utah, they’re currently out of power,” he said. “Sanostee is out of water from a water breakage. That’s the only place we’re aware of right now.”

As of Monday, the Emergency Operation Center was on stand down, with water and food items being distributed through Utah Navajo Health System, said George Hardeen, Navajo Nation public relations director.

Farmington Electric Utility System replaces damaged poles

Hank Adair, director of Farmington Electric Utility System, said Monday afternoon that crews have replaced about 20 distribution poles that were damaged by high winds, and were replacing nine others.

“The winds were extreme enough in certain locations that the poles snapped in half midlength,” Adair stated in an email on Monday.

“There were outages across a broad range of our 1,718 square-mile service territory. Outages were from Farmington east, with the northernmost outage being in the Middle Mesa Area,” said Adair.

Hank Adair, director of Farmington Electric Utility System, said repair costs from the weekend storm will exceed $200,000. (Courtesy Hank Adair)

The most severe damage was in the West Hammond, Flora Vista and West Mesa Manzano areas, he added.

“The outage began at 3:45 p.m. on Friday and by the evening 5,300 meters were out of service. Within 16 hours, or by Saturday midmorning, 80% of those customers had their power restored, leaving approximately 1,000 customers without power,” said Adair.

By Sunday morning, service had been restored to 80% of those customers, leaving 200 customers out of service.

“These were the most challenging to restore with significant pole replacement and challenging repairs in the West Mesa Manzano and West Hammond areas. All customers were restored by 10 p.m. Sunday,” Adair said.

Farmington Electric Utility System Director Hank Adair said 20 power poles were replaced in order to fully restore power by 10 p.m. Sunday. (Courtesy Hank Adair)

The damage was primarily caused by high winds, which directly affected power lines or from fallen trees and limbs, he said.

“I am unsure of the wind speeds, I have heard reports of 80 mph-plus winds,” he said.

Monday evening, FEUS was still completing repairs to the system, including their transmission and fiber optic lines. Adair said they expect the costs will exceed $200,000.

“Between our line crews, our system operators, our customer-care manager providing updates, and our contractors, 40 of our staff were involved,” said Adair.

“We would also like to say thank you so much to our customers for their outpouring of support, and their patience through a very long weekend,” said Adair.