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Power outage leaves Montevideo in the heat

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MONTEVIDEO — A power outage forced some of Montevideo's major employers to close their doors for the day, while many residents went without air conditioning in their homes on Thursday.

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Xcel Energy was expected to begin restoring power to the affected area between 6 and 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, according to Tom Hoen, communications director in Minneapolis.

The Jennie-O Turkey Store further processing facility and the Walmart Superstore were among the larger businesses in the community which had to close operations due to the power outage. The outage affected about two-thirds of the community through most of the day.

The city opened "cooling sites'' at public facilities with power, but there was only minimal usage by people seeking respite from the heat, according to City Manager Steve Jones.

A transformer phase burned out at the Xcel Energy substation in Montevideo around 3:20 a.m. Thursday, initially putting 437 customers out of power, according to Hoen.

The damage was significant enough that Xcel Energy realized a mobile transformer station would be needed. Power was cut to another 950 customers around 12:30 p.m. when the system was de-energized to allow workers to begin making the switchover to the mobile transformer, meaning that 1,335 customers were without power during the afternoon.

Although temperatures reached the low 90s, Mayor Debra Fader said most residents were finding ways to cope.

The city urged residents to keep water usage at a minimum. A backup generator allowed the city to continue pumping some water at the municipal water plant, according to Jones.

The Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital relied on a backup electric generator to keep its buildings powered and its operations were not disrupted, according to Mark Paulson, hospital administrator. A backup generator also provided power to the adjacent nursing home facilities.

Businesses in the downtown area had power through the day, and continued to operate normally. Bill Pauling, of Bill's Supermarket, said he opened his coolers to allow affected restaurants to store some of their perishable goods. He also provided dry ice to an affected business.

The Tribune was unable to reach the Coborn's Store on state Highway 7. Marv Garbe, city emergency director, said the store's doors were locked when he checked around noon.

Most of the affected businesses were on the city's east side along Highway 7.

Hoen said it was not apparent what caused the transformer to burn, or whether it was related to the weather. He said Xcel hoped to have a determination today of what caused the outage.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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