Since Tuesday, an additional 1,300 rural South Dakotans had power returned to their homes and farms.
By Wednesday evening, the number of South Dakotans without power dropped to approximately 1,700, down from just under 3,000 the evening before.
Two crews from Clay Union Electric are playing a role in this progress, helping to repair damaged poles and electric lines in the Parkston area.
On Wednesday, four cooperatives were able to restore power to all their members, bringing the number of cooperatives that still have members without power to seven.
Last week's winter storm knocked out power to more than 21,000 rural electric members at 19 distribution cooperatives in the eastern part of South Dakota. The outages extended from the Nebraska border at the Missouri River to the extreme northeast corner in the state. East River Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Madison also experienced downed transmission lines, which disrupted service to many of the cooperatives in the region. By Wednesday morning, East River reported that it had restored power to
all but eight of the substations that deliver power to the distribution cooperatives.
The outage area impacted more than 9,000 miles of power lines � enough line to zig zag from Seattle to Boston to San Diego to Miami. Electric cooperatives estimate they lost more than 11,500 poles in the storm and preliminary damage estimates top $20 million.
Since the onslaught of the storm, crews from electric cooperatives, electric contractors and power line schools in an eight-state region have come into the state to assist the rural electric crews. As the repair and restoration efforts continue, additional workers are being brought in while others rotate home.
The crews are coordinated through the South Dakota Rural Electric Association in Pierre.
In many areas, crews have to build a half mile or more of power line to restore just one rural family. One cooperative in the northeast has indicated that they have 400 families to restore yet, but will need to replace 400 poles to get those families power. The crews' efforts are hampered by the fact the ice-encrusted lines are often buried under snow drifts in ragged terrain.
Line workers have been working in sub-freezing temperatures since Nov. 27 to restore power to the state's rural electric cooperative members who lost power in the storm.
Clean up efforts to remove broken power poles and other debris from road rights-of-ways also began Wednesday in the Mitchell and Huron areas. Crews comprised of Department of Transportation workers, Department of Corrections inmates, Highway Patrol, National Guard and utility representatives cleared 140 poles from road ditches in their first day into the operation.
The program is officially known as the Debris Management Program but is affectionately referred to as "Operation Pick Up Sticks."
"We appreciate the state's willingness to partner with us on this major clean up project," said Audry Ricketts, general manager of the South Dakota Rural Electric Association. "The state will be meeting with electric cooperative representatives in the northern part of the state Friday to begin the northern phase of this project."
The program enables road rights of ways to be cleared of potentially hazardous objects that could pose a threat to motorists and snowmobilers.
While the power is being turned on as quickly as possible, residents are reminded to conserve energy by eliminating unnecessary electric use until systems can be fully restored. In many areas, electric cooperative systems are being stretched to backfeed or reroute power to homes via alternate routes.
The ability to back feed is part of cooperatives' efforts to ensure system reliability. Unfortunately, the severity of this storm damaged even these alternative routes.
The public is urged to stay away from any downed power lines and use caution when driving in areas where workers are making repairs.
Consumers using generators are urged to use caution and make sure the units are properly hooked up so not to inadvertently energize lines and endanger the lives of workers and the public.
South Dakota's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives remind everyone to stay away from downed power lines or trees that have become entangled in the lines. Please report any downed power lines to your local energy provider or call your local electric cooperative.
SDREA is a member-owned, member-controlled association of 31 electric cooperatives in South Dakota, including distribution and
transmission cooperatives. SDREA is devoted to unifying, promoting and protecting the interests of member electric cooperatives in South Dakota by providing leadership, training, communication, legislative representation and other member services.
South Dakota's 29 distribution electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 105,000 homes, farms and businesses in the state, averaging only 2.18 consumers per mile of line. Nationally, cooperatives average 5.47 consumers per mile of line while national and state investor-owned utilities average about 30 consumers per mile of line.