Minnkota crews respond to Christmas ice storm damage

More than 50 transmission line poles are downed or damaged in southeastern North Dakota following a destructive ice storm.


Kaylee Cusack


December 27, 2023

Just around the time many families were wrapping up their Christmas gatherings on Monday night, Minnkota Line Superintendent David Lagge started to receive reports of transmission lines down west of Fargo, N.D. The freezing rain had started earlier that day, and now poles were buckling under the weight of ice. Lagge called out his first crew of Grand Forks lineworkers to mend three poles – a quantity that would grow to more than 50 confirmed downed poles systemwide by Wednesday morning.

“I was trying to avoid sending one of the semis, because it was so icy and bad,” Lagge said of the ice-rink roads. “But while they were on their way down – it took them three hours to get just west of Fargo – when they got down there, we had a lot more broken poles. So they were out until yesterday [Tuesday] at 5 or 6 in the afternoon.”

Since then, several crews have put in long hours responding to ice-related line damage, mostly in southeastern North Dakota. Two crews worked to rebuild 10 spans of line between Lynchburg and Chaffee (south of Casselton, N.D.). Some poles were broken, while others were simply pulled out of the ground from the weight of the others. As that rebuild was taking place, a span of conductor snapped between Valley City and Cuba, causing an outage for members in the area. The switches that needed to be opened to de-energize the line were frozen solid, so a crew of electricians was sent to beat the ice until it broke from the switches.

Ice brings down an insulator string on the Jamestown-Buffalo 345-kV line. (Minnkota)

Restoration work will continue this week into the new year, including the following:

  • On Wednesday, Dec. 27, a crew was sent with parts to repair a span of downed line on the Jamestown to Buffalo 345-kilovolt (kV) line.  Personnel are also patrolling and performing damage assessment on the Center to Jamestown 345-kV line.
  • Closer to Fargo, nine poles were downed between the Warren substation and Heartland substation, a stretch that contains underbuild lines for Cass County Electric Cooperative. That restoration effort will be a collaboration between cooperatives.
  • At least 18 poles are down between Cuba and Chaffee, with even more with pole-top and wire damage.
  • At least 12-15 poles are down between Arthur and Page.
  • The Pillsbury to Maple River 230-kilovolt (kV) line remains out of service until crews can repair a broken static and associated fiber optic line.
  • The Bear Creek substation near Fort Ransom, ND is out of service while WAPA finishes patrolling their portion of the 115-kilovolt (kV) line that serves this Minnkota/Cass County Electric delivery substation.  A failed lightning arrestor also needs to be replaced at this substation.
  • At the distribution level, Cass County Electric had an estimated 250-300 poles down with some areas still needing to be assessed. Crews from Roughrider Electric, Burke Divide Electric and McKenzie Electric traveled across the state to provide assistance. At this time, it appears full restoration will be achieved over the weekend or early next week.

As of late Wednesday morning, the only Minnkota delivery points that remained offline were the Bear Creek and Cuba substations. While that is good news, plenty of work remains – in tough travel and field conditions – to fully return the Minnkota power system to normal.

“We’re going to be working longer hours this week,” Lagge said of the power delivery crews. “These guys do good. They all want to work.”

An enormous thank you to the Minnkota crews for their hard work and sacrifice this week. We appreciate your commitment to our communities!


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