The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 6, 2013

Still restoring power

Workers for three northwest Oklahoma electric cooperatives continued Wednesday with their work to restore customers whose power was knocked out in last week’s blizzard.

The work was slowed early by the amount of snow and the number of poles that were downed and needed to be replaced.

Colin Whitley, general manager and CEO of Alfalfa Electric Cooperative in Cherokee, said his company is “pretty much there” in customer restoration. Workers finished restoring power to the majority of customers late Monday and Tuesday, but still have some rural and farm accounts they are working to restore.

At first, they had access problems due to the heavy snow. Once roads were cleared, Whitley said, they often had additional trouble getting to their poles because the process of clearing the roads piled more snow in their way.

They also had to deal with hundreds of downed poles and lines.

“To date, we have replaced 611 poles on our system,” Whitley said.

Many of the poles are on county roads that are dirt and gravel, he said, and workers also had trouble with the mud and required bulldozer assistance. Some crews working in the Meno area were served a hot lunch two days by residents in the region.

“They fed the guys and thanked them, and this was five to six days into the outage. We have some wonderful folks in this part of the country,” Whitley said.

Alfalfa Electric has mutual aid agreements with other cooperatives in the state and Kansas, and Whitley said several crews came in to help. He said they had as many as eight crews totaling about 100 people in the field working. His office staff prepared hot meals to feed the crews daily and delivered them.

Alfalfa Electric officials still are assessing the cost of damage, but the blizzard has cost Alfalfa Electric at least $1.75 million to $2 million. Plus, when all of customers are back on, crews must go back to some areas that were hurriedly done and repair those places, he said.

In addition, crews must go back and remove the broken poles and dispose of them. In some areas, vehicles made deep ruts on private property getting to poles, and they must work with property owners to fix that damage, Whitley said.

Jeff Hyatt, communications manager for Cimarron Electric Cooperative in Kingfisher, said the company still has about 169 customers without service. The company lost 855 poles, which Hyatt said he believes is the most of any of the three area co-ops.

“We still have quite a few miles of line to build,” Hyatt said.

The majority of outages are in the Major County and Blaine County areas, east of Fairview and Okeene. Cimarron’s customer base is in rural areas, Hyatt said. They serve no towns, except Isabella.

“We feel everyone will be back on by Friday, with the number of crews and what they are able to get accomplished,” Hyatt said.

Cimarron Electric’s mutual aid agreement brought in crews from co-ops in Lindsay, Hollis, Stigler, Woodward and Norman. The crews built line, and there are two bucket trucks to replace lines that was pulled down during the blizzard. Altogether, there were about 125 people working to restore lines and service, Hyatt said.

“It’s been nice to have extra hands. It takes multiple years to build that line and it all comes out in a five-hour span. And you have to get it back up in a week, it takes a lot of people,” Hyatt said.

Access was a problem for Cimarron Electric crews because of the heavy snow. Then, the snow melted and roads became extremely muddy, requiring bulldozers to pull some equipment.

At Northwestern Electric in Woodward, CEO Tyson Littau said their storm damage was not as bad as others had, and everyone was restored by Feb. 27.

“We didn’t have the damage of the co-ops around us,” Littau said. “The snow and roads were a hindrance, but once we got to most of our members, we were able to get them back on.”

Northwestern Electric lost only 12 poles. Most of the damage came from equipment damage, he said.

“We were really fortunate. If you’ve seen any pictures of ice on the lines, some were as big as a Coke bottle, Littau said.

Littau urged those who are dependent on oxygen or who have other emergency needs to be prepared. People need to have a backup plan.

“These things are going to happen. We couldn’t even get to some of them. The east-west roads had 6-foot snow drifts,” Littau said.

Woodward County commissioners, emergency management personnel and city of Woodward crews worked hard to clear the roads, he said.

Northwestern’s blizzard costs were not as much as other areas, Littau said. Damage was about $15,000.쇓

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