July 2016 Storm
Mother Nature dealt us a nasty blow in the North Central Minnesota Lakes area on Thursday, July 21 that challenged over 10,000 of our members, 50 crewmen to an endurance test of a total of 140 hours of battling heat, downed power lines, major tree damage and learning how to live without electricity for many. That’s almost six days — one of the longest periods of times we can recall and one of the most challenging of conditions we’ve seen.
It wasn’t until we were deep in the field that we realized this storm was much worse than the devastating storm of July 12, 2015 where 9,000 people were without power. The difference in the two major storms was that last year’s storm ravaged a 24 square-mile radius just north of Brainerd. This year’s damage was extremely wide spread covering a very large geographic area from north of Cuyuna to Remer, west to Hackensack and south to Pine River, Crosslake and Breezy Point.
In our experience, we found numerous instances of people desperately needing help. One example was a tree-clearing crew worker was cutting a path and clearing downed trees so they could enter a driveway on Saturday. When they reached the home, an elderly lady ran out of the house with her two sisters close behind. She ran to the line worker and hugged him crying,saying he was ‘her hero’. They had no water, no cell phones and no way to get out.
Rewards like that keep our line workers and contractors working as hard as they do to restore necessary electricity as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Facebook and Twitter were fabulous tools again this time. Regular updates and messages to and from members kept us connected and informed. The kudos members shared with us do not get unnoticed and we appreciate the closeness we share with our members. Truly a testament to the value of a cooperative form of business, where we work directly for the member.
All in all, right of way crews, line workers, inside operations personnel directing forces in the field were all working 15 to 16 hour shifts, day and night to restore power — a grueling test of the stamina and fortitude of our team members. Extreme heat, mosquitos and relentless heavy labor was endured by talented and experienced workers. A total of 80 to 100 poles were broken and replaced — a tedious task in itself.
A big Thank You to those who came to help us . . . Highline Construction, Legacy, East Central Energy, Brainerd Public Utilities and New Age Tree Service.
We are so pleased to know and work with our dedicated employees, as we know most of our members do as well.
Thanks for all of your patience. No one was injured and that’s the most important outcome about this historic storm.
Thursday, July 21 2:00 a.m.: Major storm knocks out power and within an hour and one half 9,000 people were in the dark. By 3:30 a.m. additional contractor crews had been called and were making the trek to Crow Wing Power prepared for anything.
- By 7:00 a.m., we had restored 5,000 people and by 9:00 p.m. Thursday, 4,000 people were left without power. That number remained steady and new reports of outages came in increasing the number of people without power and it felt like we were spinning our wheels making no headway.
Friday 1:30 p.m.: Crews had been working day and night and we still had 6,600 people without power.
- By 9:00 p.m. that number was down to 2,800 without power.
Saturday, July 23, 7:30 a.m.: We had worked that number down to 2,400 and by Saturday evening, we were left with 844 people still in the dark.
Sunday, July 24: We started with the 800 people and ended up with only 128 people without power by 10:00 p.m. The remaining people were for the most part in extremely damaged areas that would take an incredible amount of time and manpower to repair.
Monday, July 25: The numbers were fluctuating and an 11:00 a.m. update indicated the number was up to 144 people without power. Monday evening we were working in some of the worse areas trying desperately to get power to the 25 members we knew of that did not have power. It wasn’t until late Monday night that that number was down to a handful. A total of 80 to 100 poles were broken and replaced — a tedious task in itself.