Answering the call
When a historic late-season winter storm left members of the Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative without power, Minnkota and other electric cooperatives stepped up to help.
North Dakotans have always held their own against winter storms. However, no one could have prepared the western part of the state for the historic late-season heavy snow and frozen rainfall experienced in the final days of April 2022. The blizzard left many members of Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative without power, taking out several miles of transmission line including around 1,900 poles. On April 27, 2022, Minnkota got the call for help.
Six lineworkers, three crew trucks and several other pieces of heavy equipment were sent west from April 29 to May 5 to restore a 14-mile stretch of downed 60-kV transmission line. This isn’t the first time Minnkota has lent a hand to a fellow electric cooperative, but it was the first time a crew traveled to Crosby, N.D. ”It’s the cooperative way,” said David Lagge, Minnkota’s line superintendent.
The job seemed daunting, but the crew was up for the task. Working 13- to 14-hour days, lineworkers removed broken poles, set new poles, strung transmission wire, repaired cross arms, and more. Minnkota’s team came prepared with the basics for restoration but faced some unexpected and challenging conditions on their six-day service call.
With icy water up to their knees, the crew spent hours replacing and restoring downed lines. “We were told we weren’t going to need waders,” said crew foreman Nick Bye with a laugh. But the freezing water did not dampen the spirits of Minnkota’s phenomenal team.
“When I asked for volunteers, every one of them wanted to go,” said Lagge. In order to choose the lucky line crew sent to Crosby, N.D., names were drawn from a hat. Even Lagge’s daughter got to participate and pull the final crew member’s name!
Wind and 40-degree temperatures could have turned spirits sour, but the crew remained upbeat and smiling. Both Lagge and Bye spoke about the line crew’s incredible work culture. “They know how to make a job enjoyable,” said Lagge.
Jerry King, general manager of Burke-Divide, said that without Minnkota’s help the cooperative would have had a very difficult time restoring power to its membership in a timely manner. “Their work ethic and positive attitude were a godsend for us,” said King. “The conditions these gentlemen had to work in were as bad as I’ve seen in my career. We are so thankful for Minnkota and the mutual aid they were able to help us with.”
The team was able to repair and restore over 60 transmission poles while out west. Minnkota’s crew was asked to extend its stay in Crosby to help repair some underbuild cross arms. What Burke-Divide thought would take several days, the crew completed in roughly four hours.
One hundred seventy lineworkers from across the region joined Burke-Divide to help restore power to the service area – although not every crew got as much water in their boots. From fellow cooperatives to hired contractors, the support shown to the western half of North Dakota was truly remarkable.
To show their appreciation for all the support Crosby received, the hotel that hosted Minnkota’s team would serve only lineworkers from 7-8 p.m. to ensure that all crews had hot meals after their long days. This small, yet powerful gesture proves that the job of a lineworker makes a big impact on any community.
“Lineworkers have pride. When the power is out, that’s when linemen usually get their adrenaline and they want to go out,” said Lagge. “There is pride in doing line work and these guys are the epitome of it.”
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Minnkota wasn’t the only cooperative answering the call for help in western North Dakota. The three Minnkota member cooperatives in North Dakota also sent support to Burke Divide Electric Cooperative and Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative.
Nodak Electric Cooperative sent two crews over two weeks to help restore power to Burke-Divide members. The first crew of eight line workers departed on April 28, while the second crew left on May 5.
Cass County Electric Cooperative was able to send 23 lineworkers and 12 pieces of equipment to Williston, N.D, from April 25 to May 14. Cass County assisted Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative by setting poles and stringing wire throughout the rural areas.
Cavalier Electric Cooperative also sent a crew to help repair downed transmission lines throughout rural western North Dakota.