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The power is back! because of efforts by Western South Dakota electric cooperatives

The November 5 and 6 ice storm knocked down more than 2,900 power poles, broke numerous cross arms and caused wire breaks on power lines in western South Dakota. Most of the damage occurred in 13 counties and disrupted electric service to more than 12,500 rural electric cooperative members.

A total of eight co-ops were initially hit by the storm, but only six had extensive damage requiring outside assistance to make repairs. South Dakota National Guard crews assisted at Butte Electric Cooperative in Newell, LaCreek Electric Association in Martin and Grand Electric Cooperative in Bison in getting crews around. National Guard Caterpillars, dozers and other equipment were essential in moving snow for crews and for extracting utility vehicles stuck in snow and mire.

In addition to the affected six co-ops' own workforces of more than 150, nearly 160 workers from 23 South Dakota co-ops, nine Iowa electric co-ops, three Nebraska public power districts and a city municipal utility have been assisting with repairs since arriving on Friday, once road conditions allowed them to travel to the affected co-ops. Dozens of workers from private contractors are also assisting with the repairs.

Power was restored to nearly 550 members of LEA on Thursday. Norris was back on Wednesday and Wanblee on Thursday. Potato Creek housing came back on Friday.

LEA increased its workforce nearly five-fold as they worked to restore power to members who lost electricity. On Monday, more than 175 outside workers battled sloppy field conditions to restore power to the remaining 100 LEA members who have been without electricity since the storm hit. The members are in a 56-mile wide area extending from Parmelee to Potato Creek.

LEA suffered some of the heaviest damage in the storm. Significant amounts of transmission and distribution line had to be rebuilt to restore electricity. The hardest hit counties for LEA were Mellette, Jackson and Shannon. Fresh crews were sent in from co-ops that had sent crews earlier.

The co-op was able to restore Wanblee on Friday and some scattered residences, but more than 375 people remain without power Saturday morning. Co-op officials hoped to have a portion of the system north of Allen restored by Saturday night as well as a three-phase line near Parmelee.

Crews encountered difficult conditions as they worked to get power line out from under snow in rugged terrain. The wet, heavy snow and ice that came with the storm left deep snow which blocked many roads hampering crews' ability to get to damaged areas. In some cases, the ice-encrusted lines were buried under three to six feet of snow.

Early estimates show the cooperative lost more than 1,370 power poles in the storm. But, the poles aren't the only story. The miles upon miles of transmission line that had cross arm structures broken in the storm are time-intensive to repair and essential to the restoration process. The cooperative averages two meters per mile of line, meaning that, on average, one-half mile of line serves one meter.

On Thursday morning, West Central Electric Cooperative in Murdo still had about 22 people without power. The co-op reset the poles needed to restore power and then had addressed nearly five miles of wire. On Friday, WCEC was able to restore power to the last of its residential customers. There are still some livestock and seasonal accounts without power. It serves more than 3,600 members in Haakon, Jackson, Jones, Lyman and Stanley counties.

At BEC, only one or two members were be without electricity Thursday night, down from a peak of 1,000 members at the height of the storm. In one case, crews reset 31 poles to get one single residence electricity. Butte Electric serves more than 3,900 co-op members in Butte, Lawrence and Meade counties.

GEC was able to restore power to all its members on Thursday and began sending crews to assist LaCreek with restoration. The co-op lost 180 poles in the storm. GEC serves more than 1,800 members in nearly 10,000 square miles of northwestern South Dakota, including the counties of Harding and Perkins and portions of Butte, Corson, Meade and Ziebach counties in South Dakota and part of Carter County, MT.

Moreau-Grand Electric Cooperative in Timber Lake, was able to restore power to the last of its 25 members on Thursday. It had to reset 124 poles to get electricity to six members. The co-op lost more than 530 poles in the western part of its service territory. M-GEC serves more than 3,600 cooperative members in Corson, Dewey and Ziebach counties.

West River Electric Association in Wall restored electric service to all residential members on Monday and all essential livestock well services had power Tuesday. The co-op lost 127 poles in the storm and is now focusing on reconnecting loop feeds to hit areas so that they are prepared for the next round of weather. WREC serves more than 14,000 member owners and consists of more than 2,500 miles of line across 4,500 square miles within Pennington, Meade, Haakon, Ziebach, Jackson and Shannon counties.