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Some without power into 5th day

Thousands across northern Minnesota are still without power for a fifth day as crews continue to repair lines and connect residences and businesses back to the grid.

A worker stands near a downed Crow Wing Power pole. Fewer than 200 customers were without power in the co-op's coverage area as of Monday, although thousands throughout northern Minnesota remained powerless for a fifth day after Thursday's severe storm. Photo from Crow Wing Power.
A worker stands near a downed Crow Wing Power pole. Fewer than 200 customers were without power in the co-op's coverage area as of Monday, although thousands throughout northern Minnesota remained powerless for a fifth day after Thursday's severe storm. Photo from Crow Wing Power.

Thousands across northern Minnesota are still without power for a fifth day as crews continue to repair lines and connect residences and businesses back to the grid.

The number of those affected was significantly reduced over the weekend as power company employees and contractors worked 16-hour days stringing line and replacing poles.

In the Brainerd lakes area, Crow Wing Power reduced its number of homes without power from about 2,800 Friday night to 144 by 11 a.m. Monday. More than 10,000 were without power immediately after last Thursday's storm. Those remaining powerless were mostly in the Longville and Outing areas, said Char Kinzer, public relations manager for the company.

Kinzer said she was reluctant to give an exact time for when residents should expect power to return, noting crews never know what they'll find once on-site.

"You can find things you didn't expect and you may have to go have other supplies delivered," Kinzer said. "July has been a horrendous experience for many, and it wasn't until we kind of got into the storm damage and repair jobs that we saw this storm was much worse (than last July's blowdown)."

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The National Weather Service reported wind speeds ranging from 60-100 mph across northern Minnesota. Winds were measured at 100 mph in downtown Duluth and measured at 103 mph in the ship canal.

Kinzer said the storm that affected the Gull Lake area was concentrated to a 24 square miles, while similar damage was found in a much more widespread zone last week.

"It's the same kind of damage, only all over the place," Kinzer said. "You don't get to it as the crow flies, and we've had more men on this outage (than last year's)."

Kinzer said many customers required electricians to repair service meters or other problems on their end, but were now ready for work from the company. Although Saturday night's thunderstorm slowed work crews, it did not cause additional outages, she added.

Once power is restored to all customers, Kinzer said this is just the beginning of the work the company would need to complete.

"Everyone would like to get this behind us," she said. "We've got a lot of work to clean up and do permanent attachments. So it's not over."

Lake Country Power has not only called in additional crews, but also specialized heavy equipment to replace more than 200 utility poles damaged by Thursday's storm, a news release stated. Nearly 27,000 outages were reported after the storm. The rural electric cooperative reported the number of outages dropped to 3,000 consumers without power by Monday morning.

"We're covering the most difficult terrain and hardest hit areas," said Todd Johnson, Lake Country Power's director of operations, in the release. "In some areas, it looks like a hurricane went through. Most of what we're dealing with is off main roadways at this point. This is the part of the restoration process that will take the most patience-for both members and crews."

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Minnesota Power restored power to significant numbers of customers in Duluth and outlying areas. By Monday morning, fewer than 3,500 were without power, many of them in the "ground zero" Duluth neighborhoods of Woodland, Lakeside, Hunters Park and Morley Heights where damage from fallen trees was severe and access to lines and poles was more challenging, a news release stated.

About 200 workers and 100 trucks were set to be in those areas Monday. While Minnesota Power expected the majority of remaining customers to be restored earlier, some may not have service until Thursday, according to the release.

Minnesota Power made significant headway in restoring power over the weekend. By late Sunday, about 21,000 of the 25,000 who were without electricity Friday evening had their power back on. Some 46,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm. Minnesota Power officials said it is the worst storm to affect the company's electrical system in the Duluth area in 15 years.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Related Topics: MINNESOTA POWER
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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