Holt County and the surrounding area was struck by a late winter storm on Friday, April 13. Niobrara Valley Electric (NVE) power crews continue to work around the clock to restore power to rural residents.
NPPD had approximately 4,900 customers without power at various times throughout the state. As of Monday afternoon power was restored to all of those customers.
A thunderstorm with pea-sized hail rolled through northwestern Holt County and central Boyd County around 10:45 a.m. Friday. High wind and rain followed causing ice to build on power lines and structures.
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) sent crews out Friday evening to restore power to residents in Atkinson, Emmet, O'Neill, Inman and Butte. The crews were pulled back in around 9 p.m. due to the fact that conditions became unsafe.
"Friday night when the storm came through it took down a series of poles on our sub-transmission line that runs from O'Neill to Atkinson. At first we thought 24 structures went down, but our last count showed 39 structures," said Mark Becker, NPPD supervisor of corporate media and media services.
The City of Atkinson lost power around 6 p.m. Friday and was re-energized 48 hours later. Out of the 903 customers, all but five were restored.
The Atkinson Community Center was opened as a shelter Saturday afternoon for residents. Food was donated by the local grocery stores to help feed those in need.
NPPD used a mobile transformer to restore power to Atkinson. That unit will remain in place until the power crew can rebuild the sub-transmission line between O'Neill and Atkinson which feeds power to the community.
"With how fast the storm came in, the high winds, heavy snow and drifting conditions we decided to take our crew off the roads. We knew to get a feed into Atkinson we would have to get the line restored or bring in a mobile transformer unit. We estimated to get the structures back up would take a week or more. At that time we decided to bring in the mobile transformer unit," Becker said. "We looked at the condition of the roads on Saturday morning and saw they were still in pretty bad shape. There was still drifting snow and some roads weren't even cleared off. The transformer unit is very large and has to be hauled on a semi-trailer. We decided at that time we did not want our crews out on the roads in those icy conditions."
The NPPD crew pulled out of York during the early morning hours on Sunday and the mobile transformer was deliver to Atkinson with the help of the Nebraska Department of Transportation and Nebraska State Patrol.
"We thought at first we were going to have to bring in a mobile transformer for Emmet as well, but we were able to restore power there to around 50 customers."
NPPD restored power for 240 customers in Butte around 2:45 p.m. Sunday. A mobile generator was put into operation and will remain operating until permanent repairs can be made. Butte also lost power Friday evening.
O'Neill had two separate outages Friday, one effecting around 95 customers and the other around 60 customers. The power was restored by Saturday morning and afternoon.
"Poor road conditions combined with blizzard conditions kept NPPD crew from completing the work Friday night and most of Saturday," Becker said. "We want to thank those without power for their patience. We are a very safety oriented company. We are happy to report that no injuries or accidents occurred to its crew during this storm.
Niobrara Valley Electric
"As you know a major ice storm started Friday the 13th of all days. We built ice on our lines that whole day from the rain. The ice load on the lines essentially exceeded the design limit and everything kind of fell down. The ice load was so heavy our radio tower also went down which I have not seen before," said John Hoke, manager of NVE.
Friday night all of NVE's substations were offline. The company supplies power to around 7,500 meters. The electric company serves all of Boyd County, a small portion of Knox, Garfield and Wheeler counties and almost all of Holt County.
"Since then we have been working to get the lines back on. I can't give you counts. We are just concentrating on trying to get things back up. We have called in extra help from Cuming, Stanton, Cedar and Knox public power districts. That doubled our crew exactly bringing in 21 extra linemen and equipment," Hoke said.
The crews ability to restore service has been slowed by a few downed transmission lines as well as the large amount of snowfall.
"There are many people in the area that are helping move snow for us and we want to say thank you to all of them. All of that has been really appreciated," Hoke said. "As we get our transmission poles coming in from Missouri we will be able to stand that transmission line back up. Interestingly our poles got stopped in Missouri because they were over length. The governor had declared in a press release that this is all a Nebraska disaster. That waives a lot of road requirements, but he didn't have it signed yet."
Saturday morning Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an emergency declaration to allow state funds to be used for the response to the blizzard.
"Things are coming back on all the time. It is going to take time. This is worse than the storm we had back in 2006. We had people out for over a week. We are trying to get as many on as quickly as we can," he said. "We appreciate everyone's patience. We are working on the problem as fast as we can. We hope to have it up as soon as possible."