Thousands without power as weather brings down poles

Published 7:21 pm Thursday, April 11, 2019

County declares emergency; some power may not be restored until Monday


Thousands are still without power as high winds and ice led to hundreds of downed poles throughout Freeborn County.

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As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services reported approximately 6,700 power outages and 400 poles on the ground throughout its service area.

The downed lines led to numerous road closures and school cancellations. The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency because of the damage.

According to a news release late Thursday afternoon, several county and township roads remained impassable and people were advised to refrain from traveling in affected areas.

Three shelters were open for those without power at the following locations:

Clarks Grove Fire Hall, 1010 Independence Ave., N., Clarks Grove

Alden Community Center, 502 W. St., Alden

Albert Lea Armory, 410 Prospect Ave., Albert Lea

The shelters were expected to remain open until further notice.

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office sent out an emergency alert Thursday morning advising no travel and did not limit that advisory to specific roads. Downed lines also closed Minnesota Highway 13 from New Richland to Interstate 90 and Interstate 90 at Alden because of downed power lines.

In an 11 a.m. video released to Facebook, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services Compliance and Training Coordinator Lori Read said ice on lines was up to 2 inches thick. She specifically warned those with medical necessities of the potential long outage, and asked those without power to find safe shelter.

The cooperative said efforts to restore power are more time-consuming because of the widespread outages, and while it is too  early to predict a restoration time frame, people should prepare for multiple days depending on their location.

“We do not expect full restoration of power until Monday evening for some areas of our service territory,” the cooperative said.

It also asked people with power to prepare for the possibility of an outage.

Additional crews and equipment have been called to help restore power. Read asked residents to only use generators that are properly wired, as backfeed on the line can kill line workers.

The cooperative advises:

• If you are experiencing an outage, check your fuses or circuit breakers to be sure there is not a problem in your home’s electrical system. If not, call the cooperative to report your outage at 1-800-734-6421.

• Check with your neighbors to see if they have electricity.

• If you plan to run a generator, make sure it is on a double-throw transfer switch.

• Remember it is important, and your responsibility, to protect your sensitive electronic equipment.

• Consider downed power lines energized. Stay away and call the cooperative or 911 right away.

The following are suggested supplies to have in case of an extended outage or any other emergency:

• Battery-powered emergency lighting

• Flashlights, candles

• Portable or battery-powered radio

• Wind-up or battery-powered clock

• Nonperishable food and water

• First aid kit

• Telephone that does not rely on electricity

Freeborn, Steele, Waseca and Faribault counties remain under a winter weather advisory until 10 a.m. Friday. The area could see wet snow and sleet and scattered thunderstorms, with winds gusting as high as 55 mph.

The National Weather Service advises people to plan on slippery road conditions and noted that hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.