No joking around after April Fools’ Day ice storm

A man in the foreground and one in bucket prepare to fix a wood pole

Crews work to get wood structures assembled.

April 2 came with an icy North Dakota surprise, but it was no April Fools’ joke!

The ice storm that swept through the North Dakota country side brought several power lines to the ground, twisting and mangling dozens of the lines’ supporting steel and wood structures. Specifically, Western lost 56 wood structures and 66 steel structures on two different lines. Additionally, local utilities lost lines as well.

As soon as it was safe and the storm had passed, Western and several of its customers sent crews out to start restoring the grid and returning power to consumers in the area. Within 18 days our crews repaired 56 wood-pole structures and restored power southwest of Mandan, N.D.

Then crews moved on to repair damage on the steel 230 kV line west of Mandan. “Crews from North and South Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming immediately moved on to repair or replace steel structures with more than 100 wood pole structures on one of our Bismarck lines,” said North Dakota Maintenance Manager Tom Price.

A man walks in front of a tractor pulling conductor back on to the structure.

Crews begin to restring conductor.

Throughout April and May, Western crews juggled their commitments to work and schedule outages in their usual service territories while helping with in the North Dakota restoration project. “While some employees had to come and go to keep other work in progress, most were there until the more than 100 structures were set,” said Tom.

Once a majority of the work was complete, many of Western’s crews headed back home. “Then the remaining crews handled getting the transmission lines reconnected and secure,” said Tom. Finally, after more than a month and a half of sun up to sun down repair work, Western energized the last of the damaged lines on May 21.

Catching up on planned work
Now that the repair work is complete, our dedicated crews and linemen have moved on to other planned projects that had been put on hold during the storm repair work. “There are still months of cleanup of the many broken insulators, wood, steel remains and conductor left on the ground,” said Tom. “But the lines are back up and the crews did an amazing job, working quickly while always maintaining safety for themselves, their co-workers and the public.”

The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives also posted videos of the downed structures and work crews did to get the power back online.