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December 2015 Outage - Worst Since 1998

During the early hours of Saturday, December 12, heavy, wet snow began falling throughout Midstate Electric Cooperative’s service area. Such storms usually cause system damage triggering outages. On-call crews are ready at a moment’s notice to repair reported damage.

The first large outage occurred at approximately 5:00 pm that evening with nearly 2,000 members out of power. By 9:00 pm, that number was down to just over 500, but the relentless heavy, wet snow fell throughout the night, causing extensive damage, the worst MEC has encountered since 1998.

By 8:00 am Sunday morning, nearly 8,000 members were without power. Realizing the extent of the damage, all the neighboring utilities were contacted for help. With the size of the storm, the other utilities had to take care of their own outages before they could help. Harney Electric was able to send a crew on Sunday, Consumers Power provided a crew on Monday and Central Electric sent a crew on Tuesday.

The crews worked to restore power safely to the greatest number of people in the shortest time possible. For example, a problem affecting 1,000 services took precedence over a problem affecting 25 services, and simple repairs were made before the more complicated ones.  

As power was being restored, many questioned why a neighbor’s electricity was on and theirs wasn’t. There are several possible reasons for this:

  • Some neighborhoods get electricity from several different circuits.
  • There may be a damaged transformer serving three or four homes in the neighborhood, but the transformers serving the remaining homes are working properly.
  • The line connecting power to an individual home could be damaged.
  • There may be damage to the meter or equipment that holds the meter. The equipment must be repaired by a licensed electrician before MEC can restore power.

Members also asked, “How long will it take to restore my power?” An answer to that question was unable to be provided because the amount of damage was always different as the crews arrived at various outage sites. The repair could have been as easy as just removing a tree, or as complicated as replacing a pole or a transformer. The wet, heavy snow made it extremely difficult for the crews to get around. Many of the areas affected could only be reached by snow cat, which drastically slowed repair times. On-going conditions were also a factor. On several occasions, just as the crew got power restored, another tree fell through the repaired line creating a new outage.

General Manager, Dave Schneider, commended the hard work and dedication of the crews/operations staff and the neighboring crews, who spent countless hours in the toughest conditions away from their families to help get the power back on. “I am very proud of all our employees for their professionalism and compassion for the membership during the outage.”

Schneider also expressed appreciation for the overwhelming community support and gratitude from the members’ during the system restoration. “I know it is not easy to be without power, and I sincerely appreciate our members’ patience and understanding.” 

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