Early May damage to the electric system included second-most damaging event in Great River Energy’s history
Great River Energy is well on the road to recovery after three rounds of severe storms took a heavy toll on its power line system. According to WCCO-TV, the stretch of damaging, back-to-back severe storms Minnesota experienced on May 8, 11 and 12 had never been seen before.
Mark Peterson, Great River Energy’s system operations manager, said the storms the evening of May 12, will be recorded as the second-most damaging event in the cooperative’s history, with 135 structures downed.
“This is easily the most damage we have had on our system since Winter Storm Wesley in 2019,” Peterson said. “At one point, we had 43 member distribution substations out of service.”
Great River Energy has strategically located service stations around its service area to ensure crews, materials and equipment can be dispatched to damage sites quickly. The cooperative’s service center crews and contractors had all substations back online the next day and most of the downed structures were repaired the following week. All remaining structures are expected to be replaced by early June.
Matt Reule, manager of transmission construction and maintenance, said the damage exceeded Great River Energy’s local crew response capabilities, so crews from all of its service centers — including North Dakota — were called in to help with restoration efforts. Their priority was making damaged sites safe to protect the public and restore power.
Reule said crews faced many challenges during the restoration effort. There were lines down in flooded fields and ditches, laying on highways and over driveways. According to Reule, communication and teamwork are critical to safe and effective storm restoration efforts.
“The line technicians faced a lot of muddy conditions in fields where every step’s a challenge, including flooded areas where water nearly reached the top of their waders,” he said.
The damage from the May 12 storm affected substations primarily in the service areas of Agralite Electric Cooperative, Runestone Electric Association, Nobles Cooperative Electric, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative and Lake Region Electric Cooperative.
When the May 12 storms hit, crews had already been making repairs to Great River Energy’s power line system from storms on Mother’s Day and May 11.
High winds on May 11 took down 28 of Great River Energy’s transmission structures in the southwestern portion of the state. Great River Energy and Nobles Cooperative Electric both had downed power lines on Interstate 90 near Worthington, Minnesota, and dispatched crews immediately to clear the site. BENCO Electric Cooperative, South Central Electric Cooperative and Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric also experienced outages, the longest lasting approximately four hours. “Our crews and contractors answered the call for our members when storms impacted our system,” Reule said. “The teamwork and dedication displayed highlights the spirit of the cooperative and people coming together to serve towards a common goal.”