Happy New Year Arrowhead Cooperative members and subscribers!
As many of you are aware, the final week of December was a stormy one for your cooperative. Starting the morning of Friday, December 23, Arrowhead Cooperative service territory experienced sustained winds of around 30 mph and gusts recorded as high as 74 mph. These dangerous winds lasted just over 48 hours and created a great deal of damage to our power and fiber services.
Cooperative staff worked ‘round the clock through the storm and into Christmas Day to restore power to as many members as we could. By Sunday, December 25 at 5:00 PM, we had only a handful of members out that we could not get to. These places were seasonal residents with no electric usage and we are working to access these locations to restore power.
Over the course of the storm, every member was impacted by multiple transmission outages. In partnership with our wholesale power provider, Great River Energy, these large-scale transmission outages were addressed as quickly and safely as possible. Beyond these large-scale transmission outages, the storm resulted in numerous and recurring outages, at least ten broken poles, and many lines downed by trees due to the high winds. Arrowhead staff continues to inspect the distribution system to identify any additional problems that need attention.
Some of you may wonder how we approach a storm like this and with all these members out of power; how do you determine who or what has priority?
Many factors influence strategies for storm response including timing, duration, and the impact on our system. Beginning Friday morning, based on the forecast, we knew it was going to be an extended event. We had already contacted an electric line construction company to be on standby so if we needed their assistance, they would be ready. These reinforcements, nine linemen from Lake States Construction, were called by noon on Friday. Great River Energy dispatched multiple crews when the transmission line sustained an outage on Friday afternoon.
As the outages start coming in, we determine the areas affected, the substations circuits, and the number of members affected. Our priority is to restore power to as many as possible in the most efficient way possible. The first to be repaired are transmission lines to the distribution substations because they are the most important lines carrying power from generating plants to large numbers of members over wide areas.
The next priority is to restore service to the largest number of people as soon as possible. In our area, we focus on the main distribution lines that run through our territory. Service to our townships and main areas of population are systematically restored until we have reached every member that is out of power.
What about fiber?
We work on fiber after electricity has been restored. We have contingency plans for our main fiber lines, as they provide critical communication during events, as we experienced over the holiday weekend.
Communication is vital, so we plan accordingly to ensure we keep the lines working that support our access to the internet and the cell towers throughout the county. However, individual services must wait until the storm has passed and we are able to get “in the air” to fix those issues.
We have about 300 miles of aerial electric plant and about 400 miles of aerial fiber plant. Almost all those lines are susceptible to tree issues.
We have done well over the past 10 years to make progress on our Vegetation Management Program. Yet when trees are outside of the right-of-way and taller than 20 feet, high winds will impact our system.
We, as Minnesotans, are so quick to point out, “Well, it coulda been worse!” Nothing truer has ever been said, it could have been much worse.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue to assess our distribution system, both electric and fiber, to ensure all lines are in good repair and working as they should.
Arrowhead Cooperative takes great pride in the services we provide to all our members and subscribers. Each one of you is important to us and we do not take your patronage or dependence on us for granted. We are grateful for your patience and support during these last outages.