Power line crews working to restore power to 2,000 customers in western South Dakota after winter storm

More than 140 power line workers from South Dakota and Iowa are working to help restore power at six electric cooperatives in western South Dakota that were hit hard by the winter storm that pushed through western South Dakota November 5 and 6.

Initial reports from the six co-ops hardest hit indicate that nearly 4,900 electric co-op members were without power Friday afternoon, November 7. An estimated 2,000 members served by the six co-ops have been without power since the storm hit. The wet, heavy snow caused numerous line breaks and downed more than 2,300 power poles. Power restoration efforts continue as crews are able to begin to access more damaged areas. In many cases, deep snow is blocking many roads hampering crews' ability to get to damaged areas.

The outside crews, consisting of 146 workers from 22 South Dakota cooperatives, nine Iowa electric cooperatives, two Nebraska public power districts and a city municipal utility, began arriving on Friday, once road conditions allowed them to travel to the affected cooperatives. Additional crews from private contractors are also assisting with the repairs.

The wet, heavy snow caused numerous power line breaks and early reports of approximately 500 poles down. On Thursday, eight co-ops had reported damage from the storm. Two other cooperatives were initially hit by the storm, but were able to make repairs and send assistance to neighboring co-ops. The co-ops hit hardest by the storm and the co-ops that have been assigned to assist with repairs include:

West Central Electric Co-op in Murdo serves more than 3,600 members in Haakon, Jackson, Jones, Lyman and Stanley counties. Eleven workers from three co-ops, Central Electric Co-op in Mitchell, Rosebud Electric Co-op in Gregory and Dakota Energy Co-op in Huron, will be assisting with repairs, as well as crews from three Iowa cooperatives..

Butte Electric Co-op in Newell serves more than 3,900 members in Butte, Lawrence and Meade counties. Eleven workers from three cooperatives, Northern Electric Co-op in Bath, Kingsbury Electric in DeSmet and Black Hills Electric in Custer, are assisting with repairs. The outside co-ops began arriving at Newell on Saturday. Two crews from an Iowa co-op and outside contractors are also assisting with repairs. "We are still having trouble with deep snow blocking many roads and must fight our way to the more than 230 downed poles," said Butte Electric Manager Ken Wetz.

Grand Electric Co-op in Bison 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 and part of Carter County, MT. Eleven workers from six co-ops, Clay Union Electric Corporation in Vermillion, Codington-Clark Electric Co-op in Watertown, Douglas Electric Co-op in Armour, FEM Electric Assoc. in Ipswich, H-D Electric Co-op in Clear Lake and Whetstone Valley Electric Co-op in Milbank, were assigned to assist with repairs there. Outside contractors are also assisting with the efforts.

LaCreek Electric Association in Martin serves more than 4,000 members in Bennett, Jackson, Mellette, Shannon and Todd counties and part of Cherry County, NE. Sixteen workers from four electric co-ops, Charles Mix Electric Association in Lake Andes, Bon Homme Yankton Electric Association in Tabor, East River Electric Power Co-op in Madison and Sioux Valley Energy in Colman, and two workers from the city of Winner were assigned there. Crews from two Iowa co-ops are also helping to restore power. Wet, muddy conditions under the snow are making it difficult to get into areas to make repairs. In many cases, line crews are being pulled from pole to pole.

Moreau-Grand Electric Co-op in Timber Lake serves more than 3,600 members in Corson, Dewey and Ziebach counties. Thirteen workers from four co-ops, Southeastern Electric Co-op in Marion, Cam Wal Electric Co-op in Selby, Lake Region Electric Association in Webster and Oahe Electric Co-op in Blunt, have been assigned there, with some of the crews having arrived on Friday. Crews from an Iowa electric co-op as well as a private contractor are also assisting with power restoration efforts. "The western half of the co-op's system from the North Dakota border to the Cheyenne River was hardest hit. Area ranchers are pulling us everywhere," said Moreau-Grand Electric Manager Melissa Maher.

West River Electric Association in Wall is also reporting damage from the storm and continued outages. It serves more than 14,000 member owners and consists of over 2,500 miles of line within Pennington, Meade, Haakon, Ziebach, Jackson and Shannon counties. Its distribution system covers nearly 100 percent in an area of 4,500 square miles in western South Dakota. Crews from two Iowa co-ops have been assigned to assist with repairs at WREA. The co-op hoped to have all but a handful of residential members restored by Monday evening, leaving about 150 livestock well accounts without power.

The co-ops impacted employ more than 200 people, including more than 100 operations personnel. The six co-ops hit by the storm and requesting assistance serve approximately 31,000 members in 20 South Dakota counties and in a portion of Cherry County, NE, and of Carter County, MT. They maintain more than 18,000 miles of power line in counties that extend from the Nebraska border to the North Dakota border and from the Missouri River to the Montana border.

The South Dakota Rural Electric Association, headquartered in Pierre, is assisting with coordinating crews.