Member systems, Basin Electric work through weekend storm

Mother Nature packed a mighty wallop for Basin Electric member cooperatives in South Dakota and Wyoming. A record-breaking blizzard blew through the region Oct. 4-5, leaving a broad path of destruction and lights out for the membership.

In Basin Electric’s membership, West River Electric Association, Grand Electric Cooperative, Black Hills Electric Cooperative and Powder River Energy Corporation were the hardest hit.

This post is a compilation of some of the stories, images and information the electric cooperatives and media outlets have been communicating through the storm.

Basin Electric SRS

Basin Electric Security and Response Services were fielding 1,200-1,300 calls an hour Friday through Saturday. Chad Reisenauer, manager of member support and services, says his entire staff was working. “I pulled in everybody, including the security folks. We have taken about 24,000 calls since the storm hit. This was one of our busiest weekends ever.”

Grand Electric has crews out accessing the extensive damage to their entire system. Crews are also flying the area to survey the damage aerially.

At West River Electric Association, the cooperative’s full staff is working to bring electricity back. “We understand how difficult this is to our consumers,” says Dick Johnson, CEO and general manager. “We cannot stress safety enough. We are committed to bringing the power back as soon as we are capable. We thank our consumers for their patience, support and kind words during this difficult time.”

The process to restoring electricity is dependent on factors. In West River Electric’s case, the WAPA (Western Area Power Administration) high-voltage transmission system near New Underwood that connects to West River Electric’s distribution system must first be repaired. Once in service, West River Electric will have a better idea of which areas of its distribution system are compromised.

Ann Thorson, a West River Electric member, sent the following message to the cooperative as soon as she heard her microwave start beeping Saturday night: Thank you dearly for our power!! We did have a “fun” couple days with no power and my kids will have memories of candles and dinner on a griddle run by our generator but it was so wonderful to get our heat back tonight before another night in the cold. Thank you thank you to the lineman that worked and stayed out in the cold to get us going. What an amazing crew!!!!

West River Electric’s crews picked up 19 stranded motorists on Friday evening and brought them to the office, where they spent the night. Below is a tweet from one of those motorists.

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