WORTHINGTON - It’s deja vu all over again for Worthington Public Utilities as all electrical power coming into the city is lost due to downed power lines and significant damage to one of the feeder lines that supplies power from the Elk substation. It’s a similar story to what happened six years ago, in an April 10 ice storm.
WPU General Manager Scott Hain reported this morning that the Elk feeder line coming in to the west was lost around 4 a.m. today, and the east feed went out at 5 a.m. The city has a third transmission option from Magnolia - owned by ITC or Great River Energy - but they are also down and unable to supply power to Worthington.
“We do know the line from Elk to the west substation is severely damaged; there’s a lot of poles on the ground,” Hain said. “Elk to the east substation hasn’t suffered as severe damage. There’s something wrong with the line, but visually it doesn’t appear to be in as bad a shape.”
Hain said WPU crews are out and working on the issue, and crews from Great River Energy are on their way over.
Meanwhile, WPU is relying solely on 14 watts of diesel generation to supply power to the city. With all first-shift production cancelled at Worthington manufacturing and processing sites - and some customers able to self-generate power - Hain said it allows WPU to serve more of the customers that don’t have generation.
“So far, everybody’s been really good,” Hain said. “Loads are being pretty stable.”
Hain said the plan is to do rolling blackouts within the city while carrying as much load as they can. If people have power at 5 minutes after the hour, they can be assured they will have power for at least one hour, or possibly two to three hours. The goal is to have people without power for no more than an hour at a time, he added.
“We don’t want people relying on sump pumps to not have their pump run for more than an hour,” he added. “We’re not going to be able to put anyone in full blown production. If we can get source from the outside world, that’s going to be great.”
Six years ago, WPU operated on rolling blackouts for two and a half to three days, Hain recalled. With this storm still packing a punch, it’s unknown how long it will take crews to repair the damages and have power fully restored.
Hain did note that one light pole has come down in the storm thus far, but there hasn’t been the amount of downed trees as there was six years ago in the city.
Elsewhere, a press release issued at 8 a.m. Thursday by Nobles Cooperative Electric reported that the storm had been causing a variety of transmission and distribution outages anywhere from broken poles, wire, cross arms, trees and transmission lines. The substations without power at the time of the press release included Worthington, Rushmore, Adrian, Lismore, Bloom, Currie, Fulda, Fulda City, Chandler, Lake Sarah and portions of Slayton, Lake Wilson, Ellsborough and Lismore.
NCE crews are working with Xcel, Great River Energy and ITC to help isolate the problems. Nobles Cooperative Electric members without power can call 1-800-776-0517.
"You may experience a busy signal but know that we are manning the phones. There are just too many calls coming in to the number of lines we have," the press release said.
A press release issued early Thursday morning by Federated Rural Electric in Jackson reported that while progress is continually being made on ice storm outage restoration, "it may get worse before it gets better due to the ice on the lines and high winds expected today."
At the worst point Federated had 2,700 outages with the western and southern part of Jackson County off as well as southern and northeast Martin County, stated Federated’s Operation Manager Joe Marthaler.
“Overnight the crews made progress and outages were down to 220,” Marthaler said in the press release. “Most of these outages were caused by loss of the transmission lines that feed Federated’s substations. The ice buildup and strong winds cause the lines to gallop and slap together, along with downed trees.”
By 6:30 a.m. Thursday outages increased to more than 2,000, Federeated reported. Crews had to be pulled from outage restoration to remove downed lines across Interstate 90 and Minnesota 86 at one point.
Great River Energy also had downed transmission line poles, too, Federated reported. Updates are available through Federated's Facebook page.
Additionally, Sioux Valley Energy was reporting widespread power outages throughout the region. A map shows the most recent available updates on outages.
On the region's roadways, motorists were being urged to stay home.
The Pipestone County Sheriff's Office noted Thursday morning on its Facebook page that all highways in the county are closed by the state of Minnesota, meaning violators can be ticketed. No travel is advised on any roadway. Live power lines are down all over.
"Do not touch or cross, power companies are aware. Our deputies are responding to priority calls first. Most businesses have closed for the day. All county offices are closed. Stay home, stay safe," the sheriff's office post added.
Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening had advised no travel as of early Thursday morning.