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Generators help area farmers get through power outages

Clay Weg of Weg's Blue and White Dairy stands next to a 315-horsepower diesel generator supplying power to the dairy during the power outage. (Tim Middagh/The Globe) 1 / 2
Employees set up another group of cows to be milked Tuesday afternoon at Weg's Blue and White Dairy. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 2

REGIONAL — Area farmers are still recovering from the necessary adjustments needed to keep operations running after last week’s ice storm knocked out power to thousands of homes, farms and businesses.

Hundreds of residents were still without power on Tuesday, though crews are hoping to have all power restored sometime today.

In a press release issued Tuesday morning, Nobles Cooperative Energy Member Services Manager Tracey Haberman explained that as of 8 a.m., 659 members were still without power, down from 4,500 at the height of the outage.

She said the city of Wilmont and the townships of Leeds and northern Fenton, as well as the majority of Lake Sarah — all in Murray County — were expected to have power restored Tuesday.

Today, the Rushmore Power Station will be energized, and Mason, Murray and Holly townships in Murray County should have power restored.

Sioux Valley Energy Director of Communications and Government Relations Carrie Vugteveen reported Tuesday that more than 700 members were still without power, compared to 10,000 at the height of the outage. Linemen and contractors are still hard at work fixing the 650 broken electrical poles.

Federated Rural Electric said in a Facebook update that all of its outages were restored Monday afternoon.

Russ Penning of Wilmont said the primary effect on his cattle and hog operation has been “spending more money on power.”

He ran a generator at each of his four locations for almost five days straight until power was restored around 4 p.m. Monday. Using 50 to 70 gallons of diesel each, generator costs added up quickly.

Clay Weg, owner of Weg’s Blue and White Dairy in Bigelow, agreed.

“Making your own electricity is so much more expensive than purchasing it,” he said.

A big factor in cost is that generators are “made for backup,” he added. “They’re not made to run 24/7 for days at a time.”

Weg said his power was initially restored on Sunday, but was lost again around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Both Penning and Weg remained positive about the storm’s impact.

“That’s just the cost of doing business,” Penning said. He was grateful that the weather was warm enough that he didn’t have to worry about keeping water fountains running.

Weg agreed that conditions were more favorable than they were during the April 2013 ice storm, especially since his local power lines have been buried in the years since.

“It takes a community of help,” he added, while expressing gratitude for the linemen working long hours to restore power to the region.

Weg said when he needed fuel filters for his generators, he called the local NAPA store, and an employee met him in town at 5 a.m. Saturday to bring him filters.

He also said Runnings was operating without power Thursday, writing down credit card numbers to charge people’s purchases later, ensuring community members could get what they needed.

Weg was careful to look for the positive.

“We think we have it bad, but compare it to the (flood-affected) people in Nebraska and then we don’t have it so bad,” he said.