The ice and wind of last week’s storm brought down the Alliant Energy’s main transmission line, which brings power from the plant to several communities in Rock, Nobles and Murray counties.
Ice built up on the lines and poles during the day Tuesday, April 9, and when winds picked up that evening poles began to break under the weight of the ice and the tension of the wind.
Earlier in the day tree limbs throughout the area began snapping, causing localized outages from downed service and distribution lines.
Alliant reports it had 225 poles in the southwest Minnesota region damaged or broken. ITC Midwest, which provides the transmission for Alliant and owns the “big” poles, reported more than 200 that needed to be replaced.
Justin Foss, spokesperson for Alliant Energy, said the company’s dispatch center learned at 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday that three miles of line were down. “That is when we knew this was a big event,” Foss said.
About 3,000 customers were affected in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.
Alliant began assigning crews and contracted workers to the area, with 325 staff responding, including 77 tree-trimming crews.
Coming in from as far away as Fort Madison to repair lines, they ran through their inventory of poles, requesting additional product from Topeka, Kan.
According to Rock County Emergency Management Director Kyle Oldre, New Vision offered use of its facility north of Hills as a laydown yard for utility workers and their equipment.
“They really come in self-contained … this isn’t their first rodeo,” Oldre said. “They blocked off their own hotel rooms in Luverne and took care of their own food.”
He said Martin Township provided use of a motor grader to clear 41st Street, and the community has generally been helpful and cooperative through the outage, Oldre said.
“People have been good,” he said. “For the most part, they’re showing patience.”
With power out residents quickly learned their land telephone lines were not working.
Phone, cable TV and Internet provider Alliance Communications reported that the power outages also impacted 911 calls.
Alliance Communications customers who did not have power were without landline service because the battery backups at each home and business only last a few hours before going dead.
Because residents outside of municipalities are served by a different provider, many city residents were able to stay with friends and family nearby in rural homes with electricity. Others headed to relatives farther away or sought shelter in hotels.
Because the Tuff Home and Village Apartments operate on backup generator power, about 30 Hills residents took refuge there during the outage.
Other families purchased or rented generators to keep their homes warm, protect their frozen foods and keep electronics charged.
Power in Beaver Creek, Hills and Steen was restored Saturday night when all lines had been repaired and tested.
Foss credits the hard work of the linemen and the patience of the community.
“I can’t credit the linemen enough,” he said. “They have been faced with an unbelievable amount of work to do and in the worst possible conditions.”