A winter storm moved through the Panhandle over the weekend, bringing with it ice, high winds and several inches of snow.
Alliance Electric Line Superintendent Kirby Bridge said the conditions caused a number of outages on Saturday evening.
“A lot of the problem was just the ice on the lines,” said Bridge. “That’s the culprit right there, and when the winds came up, it just started to get things moving. We had some lines out in the country go down just because of the weight. It actually broke the lines and put them to the ground.”
Bridge did not have an estimate of how long the outages lasted, but estimated that the longest outage in Alliance lasted an hour.
“We had so much going on,” Bridge said. “We’d get people back on, and then it’d gallop again and kick them back out. The biggest one was between 45 minutes and an hour when we had the Broadwater sub totally de-energized. The people out in the country were out longer; they were out until mid-morning Sunday until we could actually get out there and find the problem and physically fix it.”
The outages, Bridge emphasized, were not preventable.
“With a situation like that, with the wind and the ice, it was out of our control,” Bridge said. “There’s nothing we can do to prevent it. We can re-route things if at all possible to lines that aren’t galloping as bad. The blinking of lights is just going to happen when the lines are slapping trees or slapping each other. They’re going to blink. It just has to take time to let the wind go down and the ice fall off.”
Brandon Wills, meteorologist with the National Weather Service said wind speeds reached up to 50 miles per hour near Alliance, but were higher in other parts of the Panhandle. He explained that in Alliance, there was a total of two to three inches of snow.
“We had a pretty interesting setup where there was several hours of freezing fog ahead of the event,” said Wills. “There was a very light freezing rain in the area as well that accrued on a lot of the power lines in the Panhandle, which caused a lot of power outages. We talked with an individual in the Sidney area, and they had 50 to 60 utility poles just snapped because of the wind. It was unreal.”
Wills said that the high winds also toppled a 120 foot weather radio tower near Chadron.
“It completely buckled,” said Wills. “It was a pretty unfortunate event, because it’s going to take quite some time to fix that. It was a really, really strong winter storm to say the least.”