Spring snowstorm causes damage to member systems

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Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative had several hundred miles of line affected and 1,750 broken poles on the ground. It took crews almost three weeks to restore power to the last residence.

Photo courtesy of Burke-Divide Electric. 

Old Man Winter paid co-ops a springtime visit April 22-24, resulting in power disruption in parts of Basin Electric's service area.

The major storm that hit western and north central North Dakota impacted 14 electric cooperatives, toppling more than 4,000 poles, downing distribution and high-voltage transmission lines, and damaging substations. Much of the damage sustained was in the northwestern quadrant of the state. 

Several feet of snow blocked access to downed lines, and the wet conditions and mud made it difficult to set poles and get large, specialized trucks and equipment to remote areas.

Several of Basin Electric’s members were affected, but two that received substantial damage were Class C member Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative headquartered in Williston, North Dakota, and Class C member Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative headquartered in Columbus, North Dakota.

Dale Haugen, general manager of Mountrail-Williams Electric, said his cooperative had over 3,000 poles down and broken, and all 21,000-plus meters without service. “That means all of our members were without power at one point. The longest a primary residence was out for 28 days – too long for the year 2022,” Haugen said. “All I can say is it’s all about relationships and how you treat people. Our members hung in there with us through the restoration process, one pole and broken wire at a time.”

Burke-Divide Electric General Manager Jerry King said his cooperative had several hundred miles of line affected and 1,750 broken poles on the ground. “Burke-Divide was 100% in the dark for the first time in its history. It took us almost three weeks to get the last residence on. We are still working on restoring power to a few sites that have challenging work conditions with the rain and mud,” King said. “Without the cooperative network we would have been in a very bad position trying to restore outages. We appreciate all of the cooperatives that answered our mutual aid call for help. We also appreciate the contractors that came in to help us as well.”

Nearly 100 lineworkers from North Dakota’s electric cooperatives were dispatched to join the restoration and recovery effort. Neighboring states also mobilized line crews to offer additional help.

Haugen and King said their cooperatives received help from Basin Electric and its members Butte Electric Cooperative, Capital Electric Cooperative, Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, Grand Electric Cooperative, KEM Electric Cooperative, Lacreek Electric Association, Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Association, McCone Electric Cooperative, McKenzie Electric Cooperative, Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, North Central Electric CooperativeNorthern Electric CooperativeNorthern Plains Electric, Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Slope Electric Cooperative, Upper Missouri Power Cooperative, West Central Electric Cooperative, and West River Electric Association along with other cooperatives and contractors.

“Cooperation among cooperatives is one of the seven cooperative principles, and one of the most impressive things I’ve seen is what happened after the recent ice storm in North Dakota,” said Todd Telesz, Basin Electric CEO and general manager. “Three of our members were almost entirely wiped out, and when that happened, what you saw across our region was other cooperatives rushing to their aid – some of them not even members of Basin Electric – without even having to be asked. They just showed up to help. That’s an impressive thing we can all be very proud of.”

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Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative had over 3,000 poles down and broken, and all 21,000-plus meters without service. Lineworkers from North Dakota electric cooperatives were dispatched to join the restoration and recovery effort. Neighboring states also mobilized line crews to offer additional help.

Photo courtesy of Mountrail-Williams Electric.

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