Thousands of SRP customers in Apache Junction without electricity June 27 due to wind storm damage

More than 4,000 homes in and around Apache Junction were without power for several hours and longer late Saturday, June 27, when the impact from strong winds knocked down five power poles in the area.

The community was hit by straight-line thunderstorm winds, according to Austin James, a meteorologist with the Phoenix office of the National Weather Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

His office did not have records documenting whether a microburst had passed through Apache Junction that night, Mr. James said during a phone interview July 1.

After hearing the types of damage the community experienced, he estimated the winds were in the 40-50 mph range.

Apache Junction was the hardest hit in the Valley by the dust storm in terms of downed power poles and loss of electricity in the Salt River Project coverage area, Patty Garcia-Likens, a media relations representative for the utility company, said during a phone interview June 29.

SRP estimated 4,250 homes locally lost power shortly after 7 p.m. According to the SRP Power Outage Map on its website, the following areas were affected:

•7:06 p.m.: about 1,142 customers residing in the area between Idaho and Meridian roads and Superstition Boulevard and McDowell Road.

•7:06 p.m.: about 1,774 customers residing in the area between Goldfield and Idaho roads and Superstition Boulevard and Baseline Road.

•7:06 p.m.: about 86 customers residing in the area between Idaho and Meridian roads and Broadway Avenue and Brown Road.

•7:07 p.m.: about 72 customers residing in the area between Baseline Road alignment to Goldfield Road and Broadway Avenue and Lost Dutchman Boulevard.

7:07 p.m.: about 52 customers residing in the area between Meridian and Crismon roads and Brown and McKellips roads.

7:36 p.m.: about 1,124 customers residing in the area between Idaho and Meridian roads and Broadway Avenue to McDowell Road.

Most customers had their power restored that evening, according to the SRP website; some took until the next morning to repair.

According to her account of that evening, Laura Ward’s rural home on Mountain View Road just south of Broadway resembled the tornado scene in the film “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I heard the damage. We were sitting inside listening and watching everything blow around. When the roof ripped off we looked out back and saw it on top of the garage,” she said in an e-mailed response to questions.  “The chickens and ducks were running for cover and huddling in corners all over the yard. One of the young male mallard ducks tried to fly and was blown away out of the property. I did not find him until the next day, when he was outside the yard waiting by the gate and asking me to let him back in. He walked home. On the other hand, one chicken is missing and I have not been able to find her. We lost quite a few things we had in the yard — planting pots, the ducks’ swimming pool and a couple of Rubbermaid totes.”

Ms. Ward’s power was out for three hours.

On Facebook, Bryan Morgan reported the wind tore the bed cover off his truck and threw it in the street at his home east of Royal Palm Road near Tomahawk Road. It also picked up and threw his pergola to the ground in his backyard, he wrote.

James McGillivray also reported on Facebook that the microburst destroyed the roof and porch of his home near U.S. Highway 60 and Goldfield Road.

The wind storm was Amy Breitenbucher’s introduction to the monsoon season in Apache Junction. The school teacher moved here from Mesa last month to live a quieter life and escape the bright lights of the city, she said during a phone interview. She posted on Facebook a photo of a downed power pole close to her home near the Mining Camp Restaurant, 6100 E. Mining Camp St., near North Apache Trail and Lost Dutchman Boulevard in Apache Junction.

She did not lose power but heard the wind howling, she said.

“It was quite a welcome party,” the AJ newcomer said.

Ms. Breitenbucher said she watched a crew from SRP bulldoze some of the nearby undeveloped desert to create a 400-foot road to access a broken power pole.

Going to such extreme measures is rare but the pole was surrounded by washes and could not be accessed by regular means, Kathleen Mascarenas, another media relations specialist for SRP, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“It took about three hours to build the road and about four hours to get equipment in and replace the pole,” she said about the makeshift road near Mountain View and McKellips. “The good news is that customers (in that area) remained in power the entire time.”

Ms. Mascarenas said a total of 11 SRP poles were knocked down during that night’s storm. Of those, nine — including the five in Apache Junction — were in the east Valley.

Storm-related damage had little impact on crews and first responders from the city of Apache Junction, according to city representatives.

“After reviewing the calls from that night, they were all very routine and expected for a typical wind storm: short power outages, debris in the road, trees knocked over,” Serene Carney, community resource coordinator for the Apache Junction Police Department, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “There was a small fire, which was quickly put out and the roof of a manufactured home that was ripped up. Other than that, there was nothing that particularly stood out. We did not need to call out additional officers as the officers on duty did an exceptional job of answering the calls and keeping the roads cleared.”

Apache Junction Public Works Director Giao Pham said his staff was called out twice that night to clear several trees that had blown down and into roadways.

“I think the storm wasn’t as bad due to the fact that there were not any significant amount of rainfall that came with the dust storm. I know A.J. was hardest hit in the Valley Saturday night,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Members of the Superstition Fire and Medical District did not have to respond to any life-threatening incidents or perform any special assists that night, Dave Montgomery, assistant fire chief and spokesman for the fire district, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Of the six storm-related calls SFMD responded to that night, five were for downed power lines, he said. The other was a structure fire that turned out to be a field and fence fire that reportedly started from a blown transformer on a nearby power pole, Chief Montgomery said. The fire was very small and did not threaten any structures; it was quickly extinguished, he said.

For more information about the monsoon season in Arizona, visit the Phoenix page of the National Weather Service website and click on the “Monsoon Tracker & Stats” line toward the top of the page.

Reach staff writer Wendy Miller at wmiller@newszap.com

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