The Verendrye electricity cooperative continued to work to restore 500 other meters that had been without electricity late Monday afternoon. Some could still go without power for days.
“We don’t have answers for a lot of people. We’ll know more as the days go by, but just be prepared for a number of days without power. Stay warm when you can. Be careful with generators. Don’t bring them inside. said Tom Rafferty, community relations manager at Verendrye. “If you have any questions about security, please call us. And all the downed power lines, let’s assume they’re live no matter what. Don’t approach them. Report them to us.
As of 4 p.m., Verendrye still had about 300 poles and 25 miles of power lines down. Five contractors were working Monday to help install new poles. Verendrye reported that more than 50 linemen, including 28 employed by Verendrye, were working with the goal of fully restoring power early next week.
Southern Ward County was hardest hit, but areas around Berthold, Des Lacs, Lone Tree, Donnybrook and Carpio were also affected, Rafferty said.
Many rural residents plugged in generators to ride out the power outage with some degree of comfort.
Ron Fritel of Des Lacs, who was waiting for the power to return, said the worst part of the ice storm is seeing damaged trees that won’t be so easy to restore.
“It’s really sad to watch” he said. “I see huge conifers that must be almost 100 years old and are snapped in half. It’s hard to watch. Almost all the trees are broken.
Fritel expects the cleanup to be a major project, but he also laments the damage that has occurred in light of the work done to establish the trees.
“Even my apple trees look like they’re broken, so we have to start over,” he said.
Darren Groninger, Douglas, has been without power since Saturday afternoon, with just a small generator to run low-power appliances. His farm was also without water until Monday afternoon.
He said the loss of electricity has affected well pumps used to water livestock. His backup water for livestock and the water serving his home come from the North Prairie Rural Water District, which was experiencing water supply problems due to lack of electricity at its pumps. Until North Prairie could restore the water, he used a gasoline engine to pump water into a tank in the back of a truck to transport his livestock. He said it creates an appreciation for the luxury of running water, especially when you’ve just calved and worked with cattle and don’t have a good way to clean up.
Rafferty said Verendrye crews and contractors are working first in areas where restoring power will bring the most customers back online, he said. More isolated areas where lines serve fewer people will take longer.
Rafferty said it can take a considerable amount of time to remove broken poles, haul new poles to where they’re needed and eventually erect the poles, thread the wire and restore power. He explained that the work is made more difficult by the deep snow. In some cases, farmers helped with their equipment to pull trucks through areas that were difficult to navigate due to snow or mud.
“As long as the weather is safe, they will work until nightfall. They’re going to have long days.” Rafferty said. “Our linemen do a hell of a job for us and our people in the office taking all the information, finding out where the issues are and some of the safety issues.”