North Dakota Co-op Works to Restore Power After Spring Blizzard

A Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative crew raises a new pole as part of restoration work following a spring blizzard that hit its service territory April 23. (Photo By: MWEC)

A North Dakota electric cooperative is busy this week rebuilding portions of its system to restore power to nearly 9,300 of its members following a springtime blizzard.

“We’ve got more than 1,350 poles down or damaged in Williams County and over 350 poles in Mountrail County down, and crews are still finding more damage as they work on restoration,” said Dale Haugen, general manager of Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative. “Our broken pole count keeps going up as roads are cleared and damaged areas become accessible.”

High winds and heavy, wet snow knocked out power to most of the co-op’s system Saturday, but crews began assessing damage and clearing downed poles and lines from roadways as soon as conditions allowed.

“We’ve had more than 120 staff working to support our restoration efforts, and there’s a lot of work being done that our members don’t see,” said Haugen. “Staffers are working day and night, answering calls, feeding employees, dispatching crews to make repairs and creating the best possible plans to restore power and repair damage.”

A blizzard that hit western North Dakota broke hundreds of electric cooperative poles in two counties served by Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative, leaving thousands of members without power. (Photo By: MWEC)

The co-op warned members through social media posts and messages on its website that they should be prepared for extended outages. Despite the arrival of additional restoration crews from other co-ops in North Dakota, full restoration might not be possible until the end of this week.

“Full repairs could take two to three months,” said Haugen. That doesn’t mean anyone will be without power that long, but once we get our lines up, to restore service, we still will need to come back to complete other tasks needed to completely repair our system.”

But steady progress is being made. Restoration of the co-op’s transmission lines allowed crews to re-energize 90% of the substations on the system early Monday. About 45% of the co-op’s meters are now back in service, and downed poles, power lines and other debris are being removed from roadways so crews can proceed with repairs.

“We’ve got more people in the field, and we are working to restore service safely to as many members as we can as quickly as possible,” said Haugen. “But in some of our most rural areas, we are likely to still have crews working to restore service next week. We will not stop until every member impacted by this storm has their power restored.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.