It’s Friday morning and the linemen are reporting to work as usual. There is already a storm raging outside on this the day before the start of the Labor Day weekend holiday. It was a storm that by the end of the day would result in widespread damage to the electric systems of Oakdale and Adams–Columbia electric cooperatives.
All the linemen not scheduled to be on call over the weekend had made plans. Some had reserved the family cabin so they could be with their families fishing, swimming, and telling stories by campfire. Others were headed for prime spots in Door County or the Chippewa flowage where the rivers meet. Everyone hoped to have the storm outages under control in time to enjoy the last holiday of summer.
It was not to be the case for the line crews at the damaged co-ops and also for line crews from neighboring electric co-ops who volunteered to give up their weekend plans to help another co-op reenergize. It’s a commitment these guys make over and over again because they all know they may need to send out the call for help when their own systems fall victim to a storm.
Outages Widespread, Complex
At Oakdale Electric Cooperative members served from 12 substations lost service in that Friday morning’s storm. Line crews from Eau Claire Energy, Riverland Energy, and Scenic Rivers Energy put in long hours assisting Oakdale personnel. Service was fully restored by that Saturday evening.
The damage was more widespread on the Adams–Columbia system. Early Friday there were 11,000 members without power, served from 21 substations located in seven counties affected by straight-line winds.
Adding to the complexity of putting the system back together were the transmission lines that were also broken or downed, bringing the American Transmission Company (ATC) crews into the picture. Unfortunately, many of the ATC contractor personnel had been previously dispatched to the East Coast to help with reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Irene. The transmission needed to be reenergized first before the substations and then the people could be brought back on line.
Crews and vehicles from Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, Oconto Electric, Rock Energy, and Tri-County Electric Cooperative of Rushford, Minnesota, came to the assistance of Adams–Columbia and were joined by crews from Eau Claire and Riverland Energy after they completed their work at Oakdale Electric Cooperative.
A Long Haul
Restoration efforts took all of that holiday weekend and continued into the next Thursday before the last of the members could be reenergized. Visiting crews stayed on duty through Tuesday, working until 8 or 9 p.m. every night, grabbing a meal and sleeping in local hotels with space available. At 6 a.m. crews were back at it sorting through the mess of downed trees and snarled power lines. By now all weekend plans had been cancelled and these committed men gave it their all to get electric co-op members back on line as soon as physically possible.
A similar event happened over the 4th of July holiday this year where high winds impacted the Bayfield Electric and Polk-Burnett electric cooperatives. Again the line crews of these and neighboring cooperatives gave up their holiday plans to restore power to thousands of members. Hats off to these dedicated guys who defy Mother Nature. When duty calls, the lineman answers. It’s a commitment that deserves respect. Thank you guys!