North Dakota Co-op restores power after spring blizzard

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A Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative crew lifts a new pole as part of restoration work following a spring blizzard that hit their service territory on April 23. (Photo by: MWEC)

A North Dakota electric co-op is busy this week rebuilding parts of its system to restore power to nearly 9,300 of its members after a spring blizzard.

“We have over 1,350 broken or damaged poles in Williams County and over 350 poles in Mountrail County, and crews are seeing even more damage as they work to restore,” said Dale Haugen, managing director of Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative. . “Our number of broken poles continues to increase as roads are cleared and damaged areas become accessible.”

High winds and heavy, wet snow knocked out power to most of the co-op’s system on Saturday, but crews began assessing the damage and clearing posts and lines from the roads as soon as conditions permitted. .

“We’ve had over 120 employees working to support our restoration efforts, and there’s a lot of work going on that our members don’t see,” Haugen said. “Staff are working around the clock, answering calls, feeding employees, dispatching crews to carry out repairs and creating the best possible plans to restore power and repair the damage.”

A blizzard that hit western North Dakota snapped hundreds of cooperative utility poles in two counties served by the Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative, leaving thousands of members without power. (Photo by: MWEC)

The co-op has warned members through social media posts and posts on its website that they should be prepared for prolonged outages. Despite the arrival of additional restoration crews from other North Dakota co-ops, a full restoration may not be possible until later this week.

“Complete repairs could take two to three months,” Haugen said. This does not mean that anyone will be without power for that long, but once we restore our lines, to restore service we will still need to return to perform other tasks necessary to fully repair our system.

But steady progress is being made. Restoring the co-op’s transmission lines allowed crews to re-energize 90% of the system’s substations by early Monday. About 45% of the co-op’s meters are now back in service, and fallen poles, power lines and other debris are removed from the roads so crews can carry out repairs.

“We have more people on the ground and are working to restore safe service to as many members as possible as quickly as possible,” Haugen said. “But in some of our more rural areas, we will likely still have crews working to restore service next week. We will not stop until all members affected by this storm have their power restored. »

Derrill Holly is an editor for NRECA.

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