Archived Story

Progress 2011: Power Rangers

Published 4:00pm Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Safety was the leading concern for Alliant Energy linemen in the days that followed the June 17 tornadoes, said Al Stadheim, the senior manager for customer operations in the Albert Lea office.

He should know. His staff of eight local guys grew into a crew of 138 Alliant Energy linemen and contractors who worked tirelessly to make the area safe and to restore power.

From left: John Kalis, Kevin Lorentz, Al Stadheim, Larry Bagley and Al Stadheim. -- Photo by Tim Engstrom/Cutout by Stacey Bahr

Power lines were down, so they had to de-energize lines, ask authorities to close roads, then erect the poles, then repair the lines and re-energize them.

Stadheim said the workers cleared roads through the night of Thursday, June 17, and reconnected power for as many people as they could. By the afternoon of Friday, June 18, the concern turned to the safety of the Alliant Energy workers. That evening, Alliant had them wrap things up and get some sleep, yet with linemen being linemen — it is in their nature to get the power back on — some worked until 10 p.m.

The initial part of a power outage, big or small, is performing assessment of what’s out. Often, Alliant Energy knows about a power outage because of a big electronic map on the wall of the office and because of telephone calls from customers. But for something like last June, assessing what was out required guys in the field looking at damage and calling it in to the main office.

Stadheim said that by 2 a.m. June 18, Alliant had assessed the situation for 95 percent of the damage.

It wasn’t easy, because hard rain fell in the northern part of Freeborn County that night. And with few lights, it was hard to tell locations.

After the night of rest, the crews were in full force again on Saturday. A big push began that morning to get things working again.

The linemen at Alliant Energy praised the kindness of their customers. People would bring them snacks or beverages. The Salvation Army and American Red Cross also provided water and food to the hard-working crews.

As much as they worked to repair damages, some equipment was simply gone. In a group interview with the Tribune, Stadheim and his crew estimated that eight miles of circuits had to be rebuilt. They said out of 155 poles that had to be repaired, 30 of them went bye-bye, carried off by either the EF4 tornado or one its smaller partners in destruction.

Hero: John Kalis

Secret identity: senior field supervisor
Base of operations: Alliant Energy, Albert Lea
Superpowers: dedication to customers, ability to follow-up
Kryptonite: Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves
Affiliations: fiancé, Diana Dorroh; children Jessica, 21, Timothy, 19, Samantha, 16
Origin: He started as a meter reader for Interstate Power in 1989. He had installed a new pitched roof for Alliant employee Gladys Krueger, who encouraged him to fill out an application.

Hero: Kevin Lorentz

Secret identity: manager for customer operations, electricity
Base of operations: Alliant Energy, Albert Lea
Superpowers: pays close attention to detail, focus on customers
Kryptonite: cares for his employees, fishing
Affiliations: wife, Diane; son, Brad; daughters Katie, Kelly and Amy, six grandchildren
Origin: He started in Alliant Energy’s Albert Lea office in 2000 as a wholesale account manager, yet still living in Kasson.

Hero: Al Stadheim

Secret identity: senior manager for customer operations, gas and electric
Base of operations: Alliant Energy, Albert Lea
Superpowers: calm in a crisis
Kryptonite: all-you-can-eat buffet
Affiliations: wife, Kris; three sons Logan, 11, Carson, 9 and Landon, 6
Origin: The Michigan Tech graduate started in 1993 as an electrical engineer in Dubuque, Iowa, before being rotated to Albert Lea as part of his training. He was able to stay in the Albert Lea office.

Hero: Joe Kabrud

Secret identity: lineman
Base of operations: Alliant Energy, Albert Lea
Superpowers: gets along with everyone, is tall (6 feet 4 inches)
Kryptonite: ice cream
Affiliations: wife, Connie; son, Scot, 14; daughter Sara, 11
Origin: He was working in the Twin Cities when he put in application to be a meter reader in 1990, then got the job.

Hero: Larry Bagley

Secret identity: service representative for Albert Lea
Base of operations: Alliant Energy, Albert Lea
Superpowers: knows everybody, committed to customers
Kryptonite: lack of time
Affiliations: wife, Wanda; son, Richard, 30; daughters Crystal, 26, Heather, 22
Origin: He had dreams working outside and considered law enforcement or a power utility. He went to school for linemen’s work at age 28 and was hired eight months later — back in 1989 — as a lineman.