Co-op members show kindness to line crews during spring snowstorm

Five days after the storm began, service was restored to North Central Electric’s last account without power.

It is oftentimes during the worst of conditions that the best in people comes out.

In late April, a spring snowstorm brought feet of snow, inches of ice, and high winds to western and north central North Dakota impacting several Basin Electric member cooperatives. One member that was hit especially hard was Basin Electric Class C member North Central Electric Cooperative headquartered in Bottineau, North Dakota.

North Central Electric lost 46 poles and at one point had 1,200 accounts without power. A situation like this results in the frustration of many customers. “It’s understandable that people are upset when they don’t have power,” says North Central Electric Member Services Manager Pete Erickson, so he and his team vowed to keep their members updated about outages and the efforts that were being made to restore their power. This was done on the co-op’s social media pages.

North Central Electric Cooperative lost 46 poles and at one point had 1,200 accounts without power after an April snowstorm. 

“We wanted to not only keep our members in the loop but we also wanted to turn some of the negatives about the situation into positives,” Erickson says. “Our lineworkers were out there in these horrible conditions working long hours to restore power as quickly as possible. We wanted to show people they were heroes out there – working long and hard to get their lights back on.”

Remmington Berentson, North Central Electric line crew foreman, says he got called out to begin working at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, April 23, the first night of the storm, and his crew was out 3:30 a.m. “We worked until the weather got so bad we couldn’t see. It could have been worse, though, it could’ve been 30 below,” he says. 

North Central Electric's line crews were called out to begin working at 8 p.m. the first night of the storm. Many lineworkers worked until 3:30 a.m.

It didn’t take long before the positive feedback started coming in. Not only were there hundreds of “likes,” shares, and comments on social media, but members also began putting their thoughts and words into action.

After being forced to stop working because heavy snow and high winds in the wee hours of the morning of April 24, line crews hit the road to resume their efforts later that morning. But later that day, they reached an area where the snowdrifts were so high that one of their bucket trucks got stuck. A nearby member saw this and went to go get his tractor to pull the truck out, but the deep snow caused the tractor to become stuck, too. Jake Kaufman, a journeyman lineman with the co-op, called a member he knew had an even bigger tractor. The member, Jeff Oberholtzer of Lansford, North Dakota, came to their rescue and pulled out the bucket truck and the first tractor so they could all get back to work.  

Later that day, Erickson got a call at the office from Meg Fleck, a member who lives near Lake Metigoshe, North Dakota, asking if she could bring lunch out to the line crew working near her house. “She said she had some ham that she just sliced up and wanted to bring sandwiches out to the guys that were working so hard,” he says. “She brought ham sandwiches, cookies, and drinks out to the crew and they told me those were the best ham sandwiches they’d ever had.”

North Central Electric Apprentice Lineworker Brody Moum, Crew Foreman Tyler Liebelt, and North Central Electric members Meg and Mark Fleck. The Flecks brought ham sandwiches cookies, and drinks to the line crew working around Lake Metigoshe.

Another evening, after a long day fixing miles of poles and downed power lines, the line crew realized their trucks were empty, and because the Sherwood (North Dakota) area had lost power (it is at the end of another power provider’s lines) the gas stations were not operational. That is when another member came to the rescuers’ rescue. Dave Steeves, a farmer from the Sherwood area told the crew they could fill their trucks (and the snowmobile they were using to get to the hard-to get-to areas) up at the pumps he had at his farm. “He was a lifesaver,” Berentson says. “We wouldn’t have even made it back to the shop with the fuel we had left in our tanks.”


North Central Electric Journeyman Lineworker Randy McLean, Apprentice Lineworker Talon Thompson, North Central members Brock Steeves and Dave Steeves, Crew Foreman Remi Berentson, and Journeyman Lineworker Jake Kaufmann. Dave Steeves allowed the line crew to fill up their trucks at the gas pumps at his farm near Sherwood, North Dakota.

Five long days after the storm began, service was restored to North Central Electric’s last account, and during those days, Erickson says members from across the co-op’s service area performed countless acts of kindness to the line crews, especially delivering donuts, chili, hot coffee, and water to keep the workers happy and fed so they could continue working.

“We are very fortunate that we live in a community where everyone is so helpful and caring,” Berentson says. “They made us all feel very appreciated during a really challenging time.”

Related Videos