Willmar, Minn., area crews respond to southwest region of state still in the dark
BENSON — Blustery weather didn’t prevent area municipal utility crews from getting on the road to help out other cities in need.
Repair trucks and workers from Benson and Olivia left in a snowstorm Thursday morning to travel to the southwestern corner of the state to help restore power to residents there after an ice storm downed power lines.
A truck and two workers from Benson went to the city of Jackson.
“They’ll stay there until they’re no longer needed,” said Elliot Nelson, public works director for Benson.
City personnel from Olivia confirmed that at least one truck and workers also traveled to Jackson on Thursday to lend a helping hand.
The call for help came from Missouri River Energy Services, a power supply cooperative based in South Dakota.
Benson, Olivia and Jackson all contract with Missouri River Energy Services for utility services.
“When one of the sister utilities or municipalities are in need of help, we help each other out,” said Nelson. “It’s kind of one of those Minnesota things. When things get a little bit tough, we all help each other.”
The help from Benson and Olivia bolstered the workforce in Jackson and has helped accelerate progress in restoring power, said Jennifer Bromeland, Jackson city administrator.
On Thursday morning there were 350 properties without power in Jackson, but with the help of crews from Benson and Olivia, that number was whittled down to 70 by afternoon and it was hoped all power would be restored by the end of the day or Friday.
“Crews are working really diligently,” said Bromeland. “It’s a good feeling you can call and ask for help without any questions asked.”
Because heavy ice brought down tree branches that landed on electrical lines, which snapped lines and poles, the repairs won’t be easy to make.
“When you get ice and poles breaking, it’s not only inconvenience for the people but also hazardous for the people trying to restore it,” said Nelson.
Bromeland said given the scope of the widespread outage, there’s “no way our crews could’ve kept up to restore power in the same timeframe.”
She said the help is “really appreciated” and that crews from Jackson will be there for other communities when there’s a need.
“We would do the same in a heartbeat,” she said.
That kind of cooperation extends beyond the ties of sharing a utility contract. Nelson said rural Minnesota communities are quick to respond whenever there’s an emergency.
“It just makes sense for the cities to help each other out when Mother Nature has her way,” said Nelson. “There’s a long history of utilities supporting each other and cities supporting each other under these circumstances.”