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Weekend storm brings power outages to northwest North Dakota

power-pole-verendrye.jpg
TOM RAFFERTY
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The member services manager for Verendrye Electric Cooperative – based In Minot – said this weekend’s storm was the worst he’s seen in his 13 years with the co-op.

Tom Rafferty said at the height of the storm, around 1800 meters were without power – and today, that number is between 400 and 500. Rafferty said the co-op is still looking at the damage from the storm. But he said the estimate is around 250 broken poles in the serviced area.

"If the temperature would have been a couple of degrees different, ether lower or higher, this outcome could have been a lit different," Rafferty said. "If it were purely snow, we probably wouldn't have had any issues, or if it was purely rain, probably not many issues. But when you're right around the freezing point, it sticks to the poles and the lines, and it causes major problems."

Rafferty says crews continue to work to restore power.

"We try to get big chunks of people," Rafferty said. "If we know we can get a lot of them in one swoop, we start with that first. Then we pick our system, and try to get 'onesies' or 'twosies' just as much as we can."

Rafferty said it is going to take days to get everyone's power restored.

Meanwhile, Bismarck-based Montana Dakota Utilities said it may be days before electricity is restored to several communities in northwestern North Dakota.

The utility said some customers in Williston and Watford City are still without power – and crews are working in those areas. But MDU’s Mark Hanson said north of that area, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

"It will be the end of the week before we get some of those communities on," Hanson said. "It could stretch into the start of next week, in the far reaches of that area."

Hanson said he knows of one 9 mile line that only has four poles standing.

"It's almost like putting up a brand new line," Hanson said. "There's a lot of work to do."

At the height of the storm, more than 16,000 MDU customers in that part of the state were without power. Hanson said this appears to be one for the record books.

"No one has a memory of anything more extensive than this on our system," Hanson said.

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