Midwest Ice Storms, High Winds Leave 20,000 Without Power

January 26, 2010

High winds Jan. 24 hampered the efforts of repair crews trying to restore power to thousands of people in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa who lost service during recent ice storms.

South Dakota Rural Electric Association general manager Ed Anderson said some 7,600 customers remained without power statewide, while Greg Wilz, North Dakota’s homeland security director, estimated outages were still affecting the service of almost 5,100 customers in that state.

In Nebraska, about 250 Northeast Nebraska Public Power District customers were still without service, according to general manager Mark Shults. The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives’ Web site reported more than 9,000 customers were without power Jan. 24.

A winter storm that first hit the region on Jan. 19 brought a mix of freezing rain and snow that snapped utility poles and toppled power lines and communications towers. The majority of outages in the region struck as heavy winds swept through late Friday and early Saturday.

Anderson said winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour thwarted power crews’ efforts, and Wilz said there had been similar setbacks in North Dakota. They said it could be several days – possibly a week – before full service is restored in the two states.

“The sooner the wind dies down, the better off we’ll be,” Anderson said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Harmon forecast up to 40 mph gusts and overnight wind chills of 20 below in some areas through Jan. 26.

South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Indian Reservation was without electricity and water Saturday after power outages left the water-intake system inoperable. National Guard crews were setting up large generators for the reservation Sunday.

Greg Dean, director of industry relations for the South Dakota Telecommunications Association, said portable generators were keeping the telephone systems running but that blizzard-like conditions threatened to overwhelm them.

Thick ice coated western and central Iowa early last week, snapping power lines and leaving thousands of Iowans in the dark. The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives’ Web site said it could be five days more before power returns for the more than 9,000 customers still without power Sunday.

Iowa has put into effect its anti-priced gouging rule in counties where disaster emergency proclamations have been issued in the wake of Iowa’s winter storms. Gov. Culver has issued emergency proclamations for the following counties: Adair, Audubon, Carroll, Cass, Clarke, Crawford, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, Sac, Shelby and Taylor.

Price gouging is the practice of taking advantage of disaster victims by substantially raising the prices, without justification, for needed goods or services.

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