photo: Tree covered in ice with sun shining behind.

Upper Great Plains crews respond to North Dakota ice storm damage

Photo by Marc Kress

While many Americans were busy unwrapping presents and embracing family friends over the Christmas holiday last week, power-transmission line repair crews from the Western Area Power Administration and local partners were busy responding to a severe ice storm that slammed North Dakota and disrupted power for thousands. 

Beginning Dec. 25, a strong winter storm pummeled the state, spreading layers of ice across the Interstate 94 corridor from Bismarck to Grand Forks. In N.D., 20,000 residents were without power as the ice storm wreaked havoc on local homes and businesses, with the state’s governor declaring a state of emergency. 

Meanwhile, WAPA crews had to contend with several major power transmission lines out of service. Those included the Carpenter-Watertown 230kV line, Fort Thompson-Oahe No. 1 230kV line, Fort Thompson-Oahe No. 2 230kV line, Hebron-Mandan 230kV line, Fargo-Moorhead 230kV line, and the Valley City-Elliot 115kV line.

Other lines tripped included: 

  • the Fargo-Moorhead 230kV line, 
  • the Valley City-Elliot 115kV line, 
  • the Edgeley-Forman 69kV line, 
  • the Edgeley-Brown County 115-kV line. 
photo: bucket truck working on steel tower & lines
Line crews with the Western Area Power Administration work to repair an insulator string on a line south of Windsor, N.D., damaged by recent ice storms on Dec. 28, 2023. Severe winter storms knocked out power for approximately 20,000 residents in the state, leading to a state of emergency declaration from the governor. Upper Great Plains regionally-based WAPA line crews facilitated repairs to numerous power transmission lines over the following days. (WAPA photo/Marc Kress)

Crews were dispatched when conditions were safe enough once reports of damage from thick ice came into WAPA’s response center. 

Acting regional manager and Director of Transmission and Construction for WAPA’s Upper Great Plains region, Marc Kress, recalled the firsthand conditions.  

“By Dec. 28, the major roads were in relatively good condition, but in the Jamestown area, keeping a vehicle on the gravel roads at ten mph or less was hard because they were so iced over. I talked to a co-op lineman at the Jamestown gas station, and he said they were in the ditch more than they had been on the road the day before. Every blade of grass had an inch-and-a-half of ice built up on it. Walking across a stubble field was extremely challenging. It was icy, and the ice chunks on the stubble made the terrain very uneven.” 

Jamestown, located along Interstate 94 in North Dakota, was one of several towns in North Dakota that bore the brunt of the storm’s fury. Over the next two days, Kress highlighted that crews from North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota responded to damage incurred on other lines. That damage included buckled lattice steel towers, broken wood structures, and downed static wires – all from the ice. WAPA helicopter crews also inspected the line, providing aerial surveillance to identify damage and ensure they were back in working order. 

Even with the damage, Kress said he was proud of how the system held up in the face of Mother Nature’s fury. 

“After witnessing the conditions firsthand, I would say our system held up very well,” Kress said.

Photo: woman carrying ice block
Jessica Duff, a safety and occupational health specialist with the Western Area Power Administration’s Upper Greats Plains region North Dakota office, shows off a chunk of ice that fell from a 230-kilovolt transmission line on Dec. 28, 2023, south of Windsor, N.D. Duff, based in nearby Bismarck, was on hand as WAPA line crews worked to make repairs from damage caused by recent ice storms. Severe winter storms knocked out power for approximately 20,000 residents in the state, leading to a state of emergency declaration from the governor. Upper Great Plains regionally-based line crews facilitated repairs to numerous power transmission lines over the following days. (WAPA photo/Marc Kress)

 

Photo: stop sign covered in ice
Layers of ice envelope a stop sign Dec. 28, 2023, south of Windsor, N.D., after a recent ice storm. Winter storms knocked out power for approximately 20,000 residents in the state, leading to a state of emergency declaration from the governor. Upper Great Plains regionally-based line crews with the Western Area Power Administration worked to make repairs from damage caused by recent ice storms. The line crews facilitated repairs to numerous power transmission lines over the following days. (WAPA photo/Marc Kress)

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