WAPA line crews respond to Iowa tornadoes, restore power to thousands

A windmill lays crumpled in a field outside Greenfield, Iowa, after taking damage from a tornado May 21. In response to the severe storm’s damage, line crews with the Western Area Power Administration’s Upper Great Plains region responded on scene to reconstruct damaged transmission lines and install new power poles.
A windmill lays crumpled in a field outside Greenfield, Iowa, after taking damage from a tornado May 21. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)

After nearly a week of reconstructing damaged transmission lines to southwestern Iowa in the wake of deadly tornadoes that touched down May 21, line crews with the Western Area Power Administration are on their way home. 

Severe weather passed through the area last week, spawning more than 15 tornadoes, with one near the town of Greenfield registering as an EF-3. The tornadoes resulted in five dead and more than 35 injured. The storm damaged residences, businesses, nearby farms and numerous power transmission poles and lines. 

As the storms rolled into the Iowa countryside, WAPA activated line crews from the Upper Great Plains region for emergency response. Overseeing the more than two dozen personnel responding to the disaster, Josh Goodman, a line crew foreman based in Hinton, said as far as tornado damage he’s responded to, “this is probably the worst one I’ve seen in many years.” 

“This storm took a lot more line down,” Goodman said. “I’ve seen structures flip once, but we saw one that had flipped three times before it smashed to the ground. We had more rain, creating muddy conditions, and another tornado touched down while we were here. [It was] just absolute chaos. It was a mess.” 

Goodman, high voltage electrician by trade, said crews arrived and quickly assessed the damage. Crews estimated nine structures to be a total loss, with one pole completely broken. The storm’s fury completely disintegrated numerous arms, and crews coupled and a one-mile stretch of line conductor was repaired and replaced in numerous locations. 

Crews worked to remove damaged structures and reset conductors into alignment throughout the last week. Over the Memorial Day weekend, line crews set new structures and restrung lines to put WAPA’s power transmission back into service.  

Goodman said it was amazing how the nearby community came together in this crisis. 

“They had lines of people for two miles trying to get into the town to help clean up,” Goodman said. “They had to stop letting people in because they didn’t have enough room and work for them.” 

Senior Vice President and UGP Regional Manager Lloyd Linke was proud of his crew’s response to Iowa communities. 

“It’s times like this, when our employees are working through a holiday weekend, that they demonstrate their dedication to serving like your lights depend on it shines through.” 

Goodman also praised his line crews, reflecting on the long days to put the line back into service. 

“They work their tails off. They sacrificed a lot to be here. It was a holiday weekend, and everyone had plans. The guys here are amazing.” 

Photo of tornado damage
Transmission lines lay across a road after power transmission poles were damaged from a recent tornado May 21 outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)
The remnants of a transmission pole is on display after being damage from a recent tornado May 21 outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)
The remnants of a transmission pole is on display after being damage from a recent tornado May 21 outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)
A transmission pole awaits repairs after receiving damage from a recent tornado May 21 outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)
A transmission pole awaits repairs after receiving damage from a recent tornado May 21 outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)
Crews with the Western Area Power Administration work to repair a transmission pole and lines May 22 that received damage from a recent tornado outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)
Crews with the Western Area Power Administration work to repair a transmission pole and lines May 22 that received damage from a recent tornado outside Greenfield, Iowa. (Courtesy photo/Gary Soupir)

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