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Thousands without power in rural Nobles County

A downed power line is shown Wednesday near Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Thousands of rural residents across southwest Minnesota remain without electricity today following a Tuesday ice storm that brought down hundreds of power lines, toppled poles and forced electrical utilities to call on outside crews to come in and help repair the damage.

As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nobles Cooperative Electric (NCE) reported approximately 3,000 of its member households still did not have power. Residents in Bigelow, Bloom and Indian Lake townships, as well as portions of Worthington and Lorain townships and the city of Adrian, are expected to be without power for an extended period of time (a minimum of two days), according to Tracey Haberman, communications specialist with the cooperative.

NCE crews began responding to isolated outages already Tuesday morning. By 4 p.m., Tuesday reports of more widespread outages began when the first substation went down, and by 10 p.m. Tuesday night, there were 1,700 households without power.

As of Wednesday morning, Haberman said approximately 4,200 households were without power. Power poles snapped under the weight of lines coated in approximately eight-tenths of an inch of ice, and lines all across the county were downed — some in ditches and others crossing highways, county and township roads.

“We have every substation out of power, with the exception of Rushmore,” Haberman said Wednesday morning, adding that people served by that substation still may not have power if there are broken poles and downed power lines in their area.

By afternoon, the situation had changed and Lismore, Fulda and Brewster substations were the only sites that had power.

“Transmission issues continue to be the largest outage factor,” Haberman said in a press release issued by NCE. “There are a lot of transmission poles down. For example, between Worthington and Adrian alone, there are 100 transmission structures down.”

The local electric cooperative was waiting on power suppliers including ITC, Great River Energy, Xcel Energy and Alliant Energy to get power to NCE’s substations.

Meanwhile, outside crews from Brown County Rural Electric Association, South Central Electrical Association, Lyon-Lincoln Electric Cooperative and Legacy Construction were called in to help with restoration efforts.

“We’d really like to express our appreciation to everyone for their patience,” Haberman said. Some customers have been without power for more than 12 hours already, and Nobles Cooperative Electric is without power at its offices as well.

“We’re operating on generators, too,” Haberman said. “We’re doing everything that we can.”

The power outages and icy conditions forced several school closures, and District 518 announced by Wednesday evening that it would not have class today.

Sioux Valley Energy, which serves eastern South Dakota and Rock and Pipestone counties in Minnesota, reported more than 3,300 member households without power as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

With heavy damage reported south of Dell Rapids, S.D., to east of Luverne, Sioux Valley Energy had 38 employees working on the line crew and called in an additional 49 lineworkers from seven different cooperatives as well as contractors. The crews were slated to work until 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, and resume work at 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Federated Rural Electric, which serves customers in Jackson and Martin counties, reported that as of 4 p.m., approximately 820 of its member customers were still without power. At the height of the outages, nearly 2,000 households were without power.

Richard Brurud, Federated REA’s general manager, said line crews were pulled in at 6 p.m. Wednesday after working on storm restoration efforts for 28 straight hours.

“We need to bring the line crews in for some much-needed rest,” Brurud said in a press release.

In Lyon County, Iowa, Wynne Jepsen, emergency management coordinator, said Alliant Energy reported 1,100 households without power in George, and the Rural Electric Cooperative reported an additional 1,100 without power in Lester and Larchwood. Jepsen said he doesn’t anticipate those communities having power for “the next couple of days.”

“And since we’re going to have a snowstorm tonight, they are going to pull the (electrical) crew off at 8 p.m. for their safety,” he added.

Emergency shelters were set up in the communities affected, and Jepsen said officials have also been in contact with the American Red Cross.

Alliant Energy supplies electricity for Osceola County and, according to Dan Beshler, emergency management coordinator, the electric utility only reported power outages in rural areas. Like many other communities, there “lots of branches and power lines down,” in Osceola County, Beshler said.

“We do have shelters open in Sibley at the Baptist Church and the Legion,” he added. “Of course, I don’t know what the weather is going to bring tonight; more people might need them,” he added.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.