They could derive comfort, however, with this simple fact: things could have been a lot worse.
The first major snowstorm to hit the Vermillion area in approximately three years with heavy snow and strong winds didn't have near the damaging effect that it did in other parts of the state. Paul Roberts: "We really missed the brunt of the storm," said Paul Roberts, manager of Clay Union Electric. "Most of the problems that everybody else is having in the state is directly related to freezing rain, which we fortunately missed out on."
Clay County received rain throughout the day and evening on Sunday, but by 9nday, the rain changed directly to snow here.
"The co-ops to the north and to the west of us weren't that lucky, and that ice buildup on the lines, combined with the wind, just took everything down," Roberts said.
Clay Union Electric experienced a few difficulties Monday. And at 6 p.m. Monday, Roberts said, crews that were attempting to repair storm-related power line problems had to be called back in to town.
"There was just no visibility; you couldn't even see the lines to find the problem," he said. "And we did end up with two outages in the middle of (Monday) night. We went back out early Tuesday morning, and since about 8:30 a.m. (Tuesday), everybody has been on, so we're relatively unscathed."
The city of Vermillion also experienced very few problems, according to City Manager John Prescott. Power was out briefly at the city's waste water plant, but city crews quickly restored it.
Street crews also were able to clear snow without any significant problems, he said.
"(Police) Chief Mabry was up all night pushing stuck vehicles and getting them free," he said. "From what I've gotten reports on, things have gone from a blizzard standpoint for the community about as well as you could hope them to."
South Dakota's rural electric cooperatives will have more than 450 additional workers on site by Friday to assist the more than 260 line workers at cooperatives hit hard by Monday's winter storm.
The outside crews began arriving at the damaged cooperatives as early as Monday evening to begin the arduous task of repairing nearly 6,000 power poles downed in the storm and the nearly 9,000 miles of power line that was affected.
Clay Union Electric sent two 2-man crews to assist the Southeastern Electric cooperative. They are currently working in the Parkston area.
By Wednesday afternoon, 13 cooperatives still reported outages to some 17,600 rural electric cooperative members in the state. The damage to the cooperatives stretched from the Nebraska border at the Missouri River to the North Dakota/Minnesota border in the northeast.
Progress was made in some areas as transmission lines were repaired to some substations which then allowed consumers in various
locations to have power restored. However, some areas can expect to remain without power for several days, despite the hundreds of additional workers making repairs to restore power as quickly as possible.
Ground conditions in damaged areas slow cooperatives' access to the lines, but local road crews, farmers, National Guard units and Hutterite Colonies have been lending assistance to aid the crews with their repairs.
The additional line workers have come from cooperatives in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Missouri. Contractors from as far away as Kansas are also heading into the state. Students from Mitchell Technical Institute's power line program have also been assigned to help with framing.
The crews are being coordinated through the South Dakota Rural Electric Association in Pierre.
A survey of the state's cooperatives indicated that 19 of the state's 29 distribution cooperatives have experienced outages during the storm. East River Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Madison, also experienced downed transmission lines, which disrupted service to many of the cooperatives in the region.
As cooperatives continue to assess the damage, the extent of the damage continues to grow as cooperatives are finally able to survey their entire system.
In some of the hardest-hit areas, cooperatives are reporting that power may not be restored for five to 10 days. 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 Tuesday survey of the cooperatives indicated that at least 20,800 of the state's 90,000 rural electric cooperative members were without power Monday and Tuesday. 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 8,700 miles of line were impacted by the storm.
"We met with the governor and we're very appreciative of the commitment he has given us to assist our cooperatives in rebuilding lines. Our thanks goes to all the cooperatives, contractors, local and state government officials and individual members in dealing with the aftermath of this storm," said Audry Ricketts, SDREA general manager.
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.