Derecho Brings Destruction

Derecho Brings Destruction

On Monday, Aug. 10, a devastating derecho windstorm, with winds nearing 140 miles per hour in some places, carved a path of unprecedented destruction throughout central and east-central Iowa. Broken trees and limbs, along with other windswept debris, caused extensive damage to electric transmission and distribution systems throughout several counties. 

Image of storm damage
Damaged power lines and poles along Hwy 17

The storm damaged much of the southern portions of Midland Power Cooperative’s service territory, creating nearly 4,000 power outages across Greene, Dallas, Webster, Boone, Polk, Story, Hamilton, Hardin and Marshall counties. Midland Power crews immediately started to assess the extent of the damage and begin the power restoration process. The storm spared the co-op’s service territory surrounding Humboldt and Algona. Midland Power crews from that area, as well as crews from Nishnabotna Valley REC in Harlan, Iowa, were quickly on the scene to assist Monday. One of the co-op’s contractor crews in the area was also immediately reassigned to Midland Power’s storm recovery effort. Tuesday brought additional crews from Calhoun County REC, Rockwell City, Iowa, and Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Estherville, Iowa. Crews worked an average of 16 hours per day over the following week. 

Crews focused on restoring power to the largest number of members in the shortest time possible, working on distribution system repairs starting with the stretches of power lines that come out of Midland Power’s substations, followed later by repairs at individual points of service.  

While power was restored to 95% of the members that had experienced outages by mid-day Friday, crews continued to work through the weekend. 

In addition to the damage to Midland Power’s distribution system, many high-voltage transmission lines and poles (the ones that bring power to Midland’s substations) were destroyed as well. The co-op had multiple substations that were not receiving power due to damaged transmission lines. Power to some of these substations was restored mid-week and Midland Power personnel rerouted power from energized substations down stretches of power lines that would restore power to more members. Sadly, the co-op learned that the transmission poles along Hwy 17, that the co-op utilized for local delivery of power, would not be replaced soon. With that knowledge, Midland Power reached out to its contractor and received 22 additional linemen to address the need for new distribution power lines to be built to our members along Hwy 17 between Luther and Madrid. The road remained inaccessible at the start of the weekend, so the crews took to the crop fields to build out the new power lines. 

During the storm recovery, team members patrolled a few thousand miles of power lines to note any hazards along the way that would prevent the crews from reenergizing power lines, the crews cleared numerous branches and debris, repaired numerous miles of power line and replaced approximately 115 poles and in Midland Power’s service territory. 

A message from Midland Power Cooperative CEO Bill McKim…

It is times like these – when a routine Monday morning suddenly turns into recovery of the equivalent of a level 2 hurricane – that we really test what our team and communities are made of. 

As our employees in the southern portion of our service territory were sheltering, our employees in Humboldt, along with our after-hours and overflow call center, continued to take phone calls and log power outages. Reports of outages were also flooding in through SmartHub, but nothing quite prepares you for the in-person sight of destruction that the derecho left in its path.

As we quickly took to the roads to assess the extent of the damage and our crews went to work, the spirit of perseverance was everywhere. Members that were out cleaning up their own yards offered our crews refreshments and snacks. Many called or sent messages online to tell us how much they appreciated our hard work. It was obvious that people everywhere were ready to clear the mess and bounce back from the derecho.

I would like to thank our members for their abundance of patience and many well wishes during the storm recovery. This cooperative exists to serve you, and your kind words helped us power through. 

Storm recovery for electric cooperatives requires thorough assessment, many well-trained crew members and a massive amount of coordination. I would like to thank the electric co-ops that sent crews, our contractor that sent crews, our employees for their dedication, and our suppliers that sent materials such as wires and poles, as well as the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives for their support. 

We are so appreciative of everyone that chipped in and helped us power through the 2020 derecho recovery.

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