Power is now restored to nearly all NorthWestern Energy customers along the Hi-Line. Some residents went without electricity for over a week after a major snowstorm October 2nd and 3rd basically destroyed part of the area’s electrical infrastructure.
The early fall snowstorm wreaked havoc along a roughly 80-mile swath of northern Montana’s Hi-Line. From Havre to Malta wet, heavy snow, ice and powerful winds snapped 400 power poles like twigs, dropping miles of power lines in the process:
“It was pretty remarkable. Every north and south line was damaged extensively by the storm. It was something like we haven’t seen in Montana in quite a while,” said NorthWestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe. He says an all-hands-on-deck effort made up of over 100 company and contract crews immediately went to work to restore power.
“They worked hard. They started at 6:30 in the morning and worked until 11:00 at night, did as much as they could and were very diligent. We were able to kind of rebuild our electric system up there due to their good efforts – and also due to the support and patience of our customers up there as well,” he said.
NorthWestern says crews trudged through snow and mud to repair or replace at least 2,ooo power poles.
Such a restoration project isn’t cheap and lots of work still needs to be finished. Costs could eventually exceed $2 million. Larcombe says there won’t be any immediate move to recoup those expenses.
“But eventually we do factor the costs of doing business into what we ask the Public Service Commission to approve in terms of rates. The same statement could be made for the power outage in Missoula a couple of summers ago or other outages we’ve had around Montana. In the long term, customers probably will see some impact from it. In the short term, probably not,” he said.
NorthWestern notes that some lines providing non-essential service, including those for irrigation pumps, may not be restored until spring.