Co-op members without power below 5,000

Co-op members without power below 5,000
South Dakota's rural electric cooperatives continue to make progress in restoring power to members who lost power in last week's winter storm.

At the height of the storm, 21,800 of the state's 90,000 rural electric members were without power.

"While many areas of the state have been restored with power, cooperative members are urged to conserve electricity and not use unnecessary electrical devices, motors and large energy users," said Audry Ricketts, general manager of the South Dakota Rural Electric Association.

More than 830 line workers are working to restore power. In some areas, cooperatives are backfeeding � or rerouting power to avoid damaged areas. This increases demands in portions of the system that are functioning.

Preliminary estimates from South Dakota rural electric cooperatives hit by last week's ice storm show the damage totals more than $20 million.

As of Monday afternoon, Dec. 5, electric cooperatives had just under 5,000 rural electric members without power. Crews will continue repairs into the night seeking to restore power to as many members as soon as possible.

Some cooperative members may continue to be without power through this week. Once power is restored cooperatives will continue making repairs to their system to ensure its reliability.

Since the winter storm hit the state Nov. 27, power has been restored to approximately 16,800 rural electric cooperative members from the Missouri River at the Nebraska border through the South Dakota/North Dakota/Minnesota border in the northeast corner of the state.

The number of outside crews assisting line workers at affected cooperative workers also grew with more than 575 line workers assisting local work forces of 260 line workers. These line workers will be working through the weekend to restore power to the rural electric cooperative members served by the more than 9,300 miles of power line that was impacted in the storm.

Additional crews are arriving in the state and some crews are rotating home when replacement workers arrive.

The outside crews began arriving at the damaged cooperatives as early as the evening of Nov. 28 to begin the arduous task of repairing the more than 10,250 power poles downed in the storm and the more than 9,300 miles of power line affected by the storm.

The South Dakota Rural Electric Association is coordinating the extra workers along with equipment needs and support from the state of South Dakota.

The additional line workers have come from cooperatives in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montana and Missouri. Contractors from as far away as Kansas and Colorado are also in the state assisting with repairs. Power line students from Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell have also been assigned to help with framing.

Ground conditions in damaged areas slow cooperatives' access to the lines, but local road crews, farmers, National Guard units, state Department of Transportation drivers and Hutterite Colonies have been lending assistance to aid the crews with their repairs.

The nature of ice and winter storms means that crews will often need to knock ice from power lines and then drag the lines from underneath mounds of snow as part of their repair efforts.

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.

A survey of the state's cooperatives indicated that 19 of the state's 29 distribution cooperatives experienced outages during the storm, affecting more than 20,000 of the state's 90,000 rural electric cooperative members. East River Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Madison, also experienced downed transmission lines, which disrupted service to many of the cooperatives in the region.

Cooperatives reported downed poles and damage from Gregory to Tabor in the southern part of the state up through Miller to Aberdeen and Milbank in the northern part of the state. Additionally, cooperatives reported that more than 9,300 miles of line were impacted by the storm.

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.

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.

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