January 27, 2010

Winter storm packs a punch, leaving many without power

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

It started out looking like the weekend storm wasn’t going to hit McKenzie County too hard, but that feeling didn’t last long once round two hit late Saturday.
Friday afternoon began with winter storm warnings for the entire state of North Dakota followed by cancellations of extracurricular activities throughout the county. The warnings and cancellations continued through Monday with no school or activities throughout the county. Cancellations can be a pain for some people, but for the McKenzie County Sheriff, they come as a blessing to his team and the community.
“For us, this storm hasn’t been bad at all,” says Ron Rankin, McKenzie County sheriff. “We’ve had one accident and a few cars in the ditch, but it’s been much less than what we expected. I think people simply stayed home. With all of the news coverage on the storm and the warnings, people actually listened and stayed put. It made our job much easier.”
According to Rankin, several vehicles including one of his deputies, were stranded 10 miles south of Grassy Butte on Highway 85.
“Vehicles could get in from the south, and then the road just closed off,” adds Rankin. “They were stranded for quite a while before the plows could get to them and open the road.”
Unfortunately for some people, staying put wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience because they had no power.
“We have a lot of people out of power,” says Steve Lautenschlager of McKenzie Electric Cooperative. “I don’t have an exact number, but we are looking at around 100 power poles down from Thursday to Monday. From south of Watford City and into Dunn County we have 500 or more people without power.”
According to Lautenschlager, the poles couldn’t stand up against the wind because they were covered in frost and ice.
“In some cases we can cheat and get the power back up. But for the most part the power is out until the pole is back up,” states Lautenschlager. “We have 50 people on the ground working on it now and we are really pleased with the cooperation that we’ve received from the county, farmers and independent contractors. Our goal is to get the power back on as soon as possible even though the storm is still raging on with no end in sight until Tuesday. We have one customer who has been without power from midnight Thursday through Monday. That’s been our longest outage so far and we hope there aren’t any others that last that long.”
Dealing with cancellations and no travel is never fun. But when you live in North Dakota, it’s just something you learn to deal with.