Electric companies prepare for winterAfter an ice, snow and high winds rocked southwest North Dakota last winter, knocking out power for thousands of customers, area power companies are hoping this year isn’t a repeat.
After an ice, snow and high winds rocked southwest North Dakota last winter, knocking out power for thousands of customers, area power companies are hoping this year isn’t a repeat.
Travis Kupper, chief financial officer and spokesman for Slope Electric Cooperative, Inc., said Slope Electric’s system sustained about $6.5 million in damages from winter storms, mainly due to ice and wind.
But, despite last year’s events and out-of-pocket repairs, rates to customers did not have to increase, Kupper said.
With about 55,000 poles in the system, Slope Electric provides electricity to Adams, Bowman, Hettinger and Slope counties, according to its website.
When last year’s damage was being repaired, much of which was older, the span between poles was shortened, alleviating some weight on power line wires, Kupper said.
“It’s the same amount of wires in the air, but we have more poles supporting it,” Kupper said.
Slope Electric had a contract crew working the entire summer, going through the system replacing poles and hardware as needed as well as re-sagging wires, he said.
But, Mother Nature can have the upper hand despite preparedness.
“Under storm conditions like that, there’s no guarantee on anything,” Kupper said.
Many cooperative members are trying to prepare themselves and are requesting double-throw switches, a device allowing safe home generator hookup, Kupper said.
A fellow electric cooperative felt the damages, too.
Roughrider Electric Cooperative Inc. provides electrical service to customers in Billings, Dunn, Mercer, Oliver, Stark and Golden Valley counties and major winter storms in January and April left the company with large out-of-pocket expenses.
Deb Zillich, director of finance and administration for Roughrider Electric, said a January storm caused about $3.3 million in damage.
While there was damage in all five counties the company serves, it was concentrated in Stark and Billings counties, Zillich said.
An April storm left about $2.1 million in damages in Oliver County.
“We’re going to have a rate increase, but not so much because of the storm, but because of the rate from our power supplier going up,” Zillich said.
However, both companies will receive about 75 percent of their costs reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and about 10 percent reimbursed by the state.
Roughrider Electric has an on-going pole inspection program where a percentage of the system is inspected each year, said Leonard Hibl, director of key accounts and marketing.
Some poles were repaired in a makeshift way to get power restored during the storm and those were repaired again this summer, Hibl said.
During one of the storms, damage was concentrated in the Center area and most of the summer was spent working on cleaning up the system, Hibl said.
“Snow doesn’t scare me — it’s when you get that marginal, the temperature where you get the pink stuff on the weather radar screen, that scares me,” Hibl said with a chuckle.