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Gov. Dayton, Sen. Klobuchar to visit Saturday

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Gov. Dayton, Sen. Klobuchar to visit Saturday
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar are planning a visit to Nobles and Rock counties on Saturday to survey the damage caused by Tuesday's ice storm, and the subsequent snowstorm late Wednesday.

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Both political leaders have spoken directly with Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh about the damages the storm wrought on southwest Minnesota.

"Dayton said they would work in a bipartisan manner," Oberloh said during an emergency meeting of city and county leaders, law enforcement, hospital administration and emergency management Thursday afternoon at Worthington's City Hall. "I think we'll get assistance from the state in what they can provide."

All cities in Nobles County are being asked to declare a state of emergency, but with power out in all of the rural areas and most of the small towns, it's been a challenge connecting with some city officials.

Much of Thursday's discussion again focused on the power situation.

Time for toast?

Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey reported that people have been making frivolous calls on the 9-1-1 system, including from someone wondering if they could have power by 7 a.m. so they could have toast for breakfast.

The city of Worthington remains on rolling blackouts, and Worthington Public Utilities (WPU) Manager Scott Hain said the city is "totally reliant" on diesel generation.

Hain said ITC, a power company, has 120 to 130 line workers in the county working to get the power system functional again.

"As they stood structures up and moved on to the next one, two more poles would fall," he shared. "Hopefully today (Thursday), they'll make some progress."

"ITC has indicated their two white-hot priorities are to get Elk up, Worthington, Adrian and the Nobles Cooperative Electric substations that work off Elk," Hain said.

Just one of the city's three 69kv feeds remains standing, and Hain is concerned that the last remaining feed may yet come down under the weight of ice and snow.

The city continues to utilize 14 megawatts of electricity from its diesel-powered generators, which is the equivalent of power usage for the city of Worthington on a typical Sunday morning. On an ordinary Thursday afternoon, the city uses roughly twice that amount of power.

"We're getting some inquiries about how long power will be out," Hain said, adding that the rolling blackouts are used on the 17 feeder lines in the city.

"We're trying to utilize those 14 megawatts all of the time," he said. "We're afraid if we put a schedule together, we won't be able to adhere to it. We're doing the best we can; we recognize the inconvenience and apologize for it."

Hain said if the city is able to get additional power, the rolling blackouts can be eliminated, but he doesn't know when that will happen.

"It still would not be enough power for industries to go back into production, but it would be progress," he said.

WPU staff has been working around the clock since 10 or 11 p.m. Tuesday, Hain said.

"We're doing what we can," he added.

Snow emergency declared

The city of Worthington has declared a snow emergency beginning today and continuing through Monday. All vehicles are required to utilize the odd-even parking restrictions, parking on the odd-numbered side of the street on odd numbered days. Violators will be fined $25, and their vehicles will be towed.

"There could be situations where you're not able to park in front of your house because of debris," said Oberloh, adding that people may need to park in places where their vehicles won't be struck by falling debris.

"City crews really do need the room to do the cleanup," he added. "Several roads are still one lane. We don't need people out joyriding."

Travel is still not advised in Nobles County, and Sheriff Kent Wilkening said there are still dangers in rural areas because of downed power lines.

"I'm going to advise as little travel as possible," Wilkening said. "If they are out there, they've got to be real careful with the power lines."

Wilkening said a semi hooked a low-hanging power line Thursday morning and pulled it for a half-mile before the line was torn loose.

"If a power line is on the ground, please do not drive over it -- you cannot assume it's dead," he added.

Day shelter to open

An Emergency Operations Center was partially activated Thursday morning as people began calling with questions about housing. The county dispatch center received half a dozen calls Wednesday night about sheltering.

"By this time, there are probably houses that are getting pretty cold," Jacobs said.

Nobles County Community Services will open a day shelter for Nobles County residents who have no electricity or heat source in their home.

The day shelter, located in the former Avera Clinic building at 508 10th St., Worthington, will be open from noon to 8 p.m. today, and there will be a daily assessment as to its operation.

Meals will not be provided, but there may be hot coffee, water and snacks.

Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times, and people are asked to bringing activities/books for family members. No animals, except service animals, will be allowed in the warming shelter.

Surgeries rescheduled

Mike Hammer, CEO of Sanford Worthington Medical Center, said the hospital has not had the volume it anticipated, especially since both the local Sanford and Avera clinics were closed Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, the hospital remains well-staffed and ready.

"The biggest issue we have is we're cancelling surgeries because of power," Hammer said. "We just don't want to run the risk of doing surgeries (with power uncertainties)"

The hospital typically performs eight to 12 surgeries per day, and Hammer said that workload will pile up as the rolling power outages continue.

"We're worried about C-sections, too, with babies coming," Hammer said.

Hain said the city was willing to take the hospital off of the rolling blackout as needed for emergencies, and all that would be needed is a "flip of the switch."

The good news is that the hospital had not seen any cases of people injured by falling tree limbs or other weather-related injuries as of Thursday afternoon.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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