Rushford area lineworkers restore power in Wisconsin
Cresco, IA | Rushford, MN (7:30 a.m. September 5, 2018)— Two crews from MiEnergy Cooperative left August 29 and spent a few days in Wisconsin assisting Oakdale Electric Cooperative, of Tomah, and Vernon Electric Cooperative, of Westby, in restoring power following storms that rolled through on August 27.
Lucas Gravos, Noah Manning, Andy Prinsen and Tony Rislove, all of Rushford, volunteered to help their counterparts and saw firsthand the destruction left behind from the storms.
Oakdale had a lot of wind damage with trees taking down power lines. Roads were in rough shape from flash flooding. Vernon had over 50 poles wiped out.
“Vernon’s area was the worst of the two cooperatives. What we saw reminded us of the Rushford flood of 2007. The terrain is similar with the big valleys. We saw a lot of roads washed out. We did a lot of stopping and checking of washouts at the edge of roadways to make sure the road was safe for our truck,” explained Prinsen.
Rislove said he and Manning saw churches and cemeteries that suffered flood damage.
“We saw a skid loader that flash flooding had apparently moved a quarter mile from its original location,” Rislove said. “Anyone that has experienced a flood would also recognize the smell of the mud left behind.”
Prinsen detailed one situation in Oakdale’s service territory where he and Gravos came upon a road hollowed out under it.
“We saw a hole in the asphalt and stopped to check it out and the road was completely washed out underneath. It was about 10 feet down to the bottom,” Prinsen said. “Vehicles had been driving around it and it could have gave way at any moment.”
Employees from Oakdale marked the area with safety cones and alerted the proper authorities.
Dairyland Power Cooperative, which is the wholesale power supplier for MiEnergy, Oakdale and Vernon, has a system in place called Restoration of Power in an Emergency (also known as ROPE) where electric cooperatives can seamlessly request storm relief help.
“When requests are made we look internally at our work schedule and future weather forecasts to determine if we feel comfortable sending help. If those things check out, then we ask if anyone is willing to volunteer. It is volunteer based; no one is forced to go,” says Chad Chaffee, MiEnergy’s vice president of operations.
Manning and Rislove took the co-op’s track unit to help Vernon replace poles for three days, while Prinsen and Gravos took a bucket truck and spent one day at Oakdale and one day at Vernon.
“Lucas and I helped put line back up that had been taken down by trees in Oakdale. Then we went to Vernon where we helped with placing new poles,” Prinsen stated.
MiEnergy and its predecessors Hawkeye REC and Tri-County Electric Cooperative have a history of crews willing to volunteer to provide storm restoration relief for other cooperatives.
“It is nice to know that if we would be in a similar situation that others would come help us. We know firsthand how exhausting it is to work around the clock to restore power after a storm. It feels good to be the guys who come in and are able to give the local crews some needed relief,” expressed Rislove. “Seeing how different cooperatives organize outside crews also gives us a better understanding of what would work well if we found ourselves needing to call in help.”