By Tim Leeds
Thursday was a busy day for the power companies in the area.
Both Hill County Electric and the Montana Power Company report that their workers spent most of the day restoring power throughout the region.
The late snowstorm Thursday kept Montana Power Company workers busy most of the day and into early Friday morning repairing damage that caused power outages through most of the region, said Dave Boles, engineering technician for the Havre district of the company.
He said the snow, rain and heavy wind was causing problems and power outages in the area for most of the day.
Boles said the biggest problem came when an insulator failed at a substation at Fort Assinniboine at about 2:05 p.m., blacking out an area from Chester to Chinook and south to Big Sandy. Boles said power was restored most everywhere but Havre in about 15 minutes, but that power was out in Havre for about 45 minutes. He said that after the insulator was repaired a circuit breaker blew at the same substation and had to be replaced, as well.
Boles said snow rebounding on lines caused a problem for most of the day. He said snow slipping off after it built up on the lines caused them to bounce, blowing breakers.
Boles said crews worked on this problem in scattered areas until about 11 p.m., when an auto accident knocked down a power pole southeast of Havre. He said crews were working on this problem until about 5 a.m. this morning.
Boles said he and the company would like to let the crews know that they appreciate the late hours the crews worked in order to restore power to their customers.
Hill County Electric had the same problems throughout the day. Superintendent Bob Beauchaine said they received their first phone call shortly after 8 a.m., and sent two men south of Chinook to resolve the problem. He said the visibility was close to zero and the snow was sticking to the lines, turning to ice and breaking wires and poles.
He said they sent more help, but the conditions only worsened. The trucks and equipment were getting stuck, he said, and the linemen were afoot much of the time.
Beauchaine said by this time all of their available personnel were were trying to cover outages throughout their system. To compound things, when the Montana Power Company substation went out, Beauchaine said it cut power to some of their substations that were served by the same system.
Beauchaine said that by midnight service had been restored to all but about 100 accounts, and the workers stopped for the night. He said the crews were back on the job at 8 a.m. this morning restoring power to areas with lines down. Additional help is coming from Red Rock Power line contractors from Chinook, and they hope to have power restored to all areas by the end of the day.