Over 300 remain without power in panhandle Wheat Belt Public Power District
Restoration efforts continue in the Panhandle after ice and wind cause the worst utility damage in decades. Over 200 Wheat Belt Public Power District customers were restored at least temporary power Sunday, but over 300 remain without power Monday.
Wheat Belt Public Power District General Manager Tim Lindahl is grateful to the neighboring power districts that have pitched in. He said restoration efforts began Friday night with linemen putting in 16 hour days. "Dawson was gracious to offer to help, and Midwest Electric Cooperation from Grant sent guys too," said Lindahl. He added that they sometimes rely on neighbors to the west, but "they are in the same boat."
A significant ice event and 40-50 mph winds with even higher gusts wreaked havoc to the Wheat Belt Public Power District. Lindahl reports over 100 poles on the ground, saying they have not patrolled the entire area yet, and they will likely find even more down.
Crews headed out again early Monday morning. "We will work until everyone is restored," said Lindahl. He said it's a long shot to say that everyone will have power by Monday evening. "Tuesday evening for power back on for everyone is the goal."
Lindahl explained that crews will do a temporary restoral to get customers power as quickly as possible, placing poles upright. They will straighten leaning poles for now, and once everyone is restored, they will begin the long process of replacing poles for a permanent solution.
Lindahl said the numbers of customers without power are an estimate because most of the lines that went down are on an older metering system, but that 300-400 residents lost power, and 200-300 were restored Sunday. He said they focused on lines which would restore the most power the quickest first, with the only goal - "to get the lights on."
A weather event such as this has an extreme price tag. Lindahl estimates, "on the conservative side," he said, with a final price tag of at least $250,000 to fix what ice and wind destroyed.
Some of the things to consider: 15 extra guys and equipment, supplies, fixing the problem twice (temporarily and permanently), paying wages and overtime, plus "our own guys," he said. "It's frustrating."
Lindahl will be using new software soon to calculate the cost of outages to figure customer impact, (from businesses not being able to open up to food loss, for example). He said of this storm he does not know of any livestock losses.
Lindahl said, "We are working our tails off to get power restored. This is the worst event since 1977 – as far as utility damage."
He added, “Nebraska Strong – It’s just amazing that everyone can come together. On our Facebook page we haven’t come across any negative comments. I'm just in appreciation of how well this state can really come together”
The Wheat Belt Public Power District covers 3600 square miles from the west half of Lake McConaughy, over to Sidney, to the Colorado State border, and up into the Sandhills.