Power down, but cleaning up: Snow snarls work; more blackouts; rural areas remain isolated
WORTHINGTON -- Nobles Cooperative Electric went from more than 3,400 member households without power Thursday morning to approximately 3,200 households without power by 4 p.m. Yet while the numbers were declining, there's still much work to be done, and concerns linger about downed power lines under the weight of ice and snow.
About eight and a half inches of snow fell overnight Wednesday and into Thursday and, coupled with high winds, slowed restoration efforts and added stress to the system. On Thursday, 60 additional linemen and tree trimmers were on the scene to aid Nobles Cooperative Electric (NCE) line crews with work in Nobles and Murray counties.
"Transmission issues continue to hamper any restoration efforts in Nobles County," reported Tracey Haberman, communications specialist with NCE, late Thursday afternoon. "There is currently no source of power coming into the county to power the cooperative's substations."
The only substation with power by late Thursday was near Lismore.
"This ice storm did an incredible amount of damage in a short amount of time," Haberman said. "Nobles Cooperative Electric members should prepare themselves that these power outages could be for an extended period of time until we get power to our substations."
NCE is encouraging its members without power to fill up the fuel tank on their generators or stay at a friend or neighbor's home that has power, and to be prepared for the worst.
The cooperative is restoring power based on the number of customers it can impact at one time. Priority is first given to restoring a substation, then major distribution lines and finally individual outages.
If any NCE members know the location of any damaged poles or wires, they are encouraged to call 1-800-397-4592 and keep everyone away from downed power lines.
Federated Rural Electric at Jackson reported in a Thursday afternoon press release that Mother Nature was helping and ice was beginning to fall off some of its power lines and trees.
"Since noon, Federated Rural Electric has not received new outage reports of snapping poles or downed wires," said Joe Marathaler, Federated's operations manager. "Previously, restoration was like restoring one area only to see another nearby area go off, which is frustrating. Now we are making progress. We also believe we are past the transmission line outages that would take off eight substations in Jackson County and the one in Dunnell."
By 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Federated had approximately 1,800 households without power, down from a height of 2,200 households. Line crews were expected to work until 10 p.m. Thursday and return at daylight today.
Federated has 10 line crews from contractor Karian Peterson Power Line Contracting, totaling 36 linemen, working to restore power in Jackson County.
"Federated members should still prepare themselves that these power outages could last at least 24 to 48 hours more," said Richard Brurud, Federated's general manager.
Members buying new generators need to be careful to not backfeed electricity onto the power lines, as linemen could be shocked. To avoid backfeed, individuals should pull the breaker at the meter, plug only certain items into the generator or contact a local electrician.
"I'd like to thank our members and the community for their patience," Brurud said in the press release. "No one wants to be without power for any length of time; however, we must perform the restoration work in a logical, systematic manner for the safety of our employees and the public."
Rural electric customers who have been without power since late Tuesday should take precautions with any meat and food items stored in freezers. A rule of thumb is that food in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days, while food in a half-full freezer will last about one day. People are encouraged not to open freezer doors unnecessarily.
Any questions about food safety should be directed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's special meat and poultry hotline at 1-800-535-4555.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.