Stay away from downed power lines: April storm devastates power line system

Yesterday’s snow and ice caused widespread destruction on the powerline system, leaving thousands of electric cooperative members without power.

With more than 323 transmission line structures down on their system and 15 substations without power, Great River Energy, wholesale power supplier 28 member-owner cooperatives, asks for patience and urges the public to beware of downed power lines.

“If you see a downed power line, call 911 or your local electric cooperative to report it immediately and stay away. There is no way to tell if a line is energized by looking at it. Always assume it can carry currents strong enough to kill,” said Lori Buffington, Great River Energy spokesperson.

Great River Energy’s vice president and chief transmission officer Priti Patel said the situation is unprecedented – the cooperative has never had so many damaged structures on the system at one time. She said they have mobilized more than 50 crew members to dive into what will be days of difficult, complex work.

“Our crews are working as fast as they safely can to restore power and repair the damage. We have highly skilled crews on the job and we ask for your patience. The scope and magnitude of our restoration effort is huge and the safety of our crews comes first as we work to get the lights back on and the system rebuilt,” Patel said.

Patel said they are working closely with its member-owner cooperatives and neighboring utilities whose systems also sustained severe damage because the power line system is highly interconnected. Great River Energy anticipates that it will take several days in some areas to fully restore power to all of its substations. Some homes farms and businesses may need further repairs before power will be restored.

If you see a downed power line:

  • Stay away from it and call 911 or your local electric cooperative to report it immediately. There is no way to tell if a power line is energized just by looking at it. Always assume it can carry currents strong enough to kill.
  • Never drive over a downed power line if it is blocking your driveway or road. Call 911 or your local electric cooperative to report it and find another route.
  • If a power line falls on your car or otherwise contacts your vehicle, stay in your vehicle. Use your cell phone to call 911 or your local electric cooperative and wait for help to arrive.
  • If you must exit your vehicle, jump with both feet out of the car and shuffle a safe distance.