Butte, Mont. - Oct. 12, 2017 -
NorthWestern Energy has restored electric service to nearly all its customers along Montana's Hi-Line after snow and wind last week left many without power.
A storm carrying heavy, wet snow and wind hit hard at areas near Havre and stretching east about 90 miles to the Malta area on Oct. 2-3. The storm left at least 9,500 NorthWestern Energy customers without power. Because NorthWestern counts homes and businesses as customers, the actual number of people affected by the storm and resulting outage was significantly higher than the customer count.
While many customers saw service restored relatively quickly, others in the rural areas east of Havre were left without electricity for a week or more in some cases. NorthWestern heartily thanks its customers in the area for their understanding and support.
'These folks are very special, capable and extraordinarily resilient,' said Jason Merkel, NorthWestern's general manager, Operations. 'The company is very fortunate to serve such a community.'
NorthWestern brought crews from all of its Montana divisions and employed several contract crews to help restore power, replace power poles and rebuild power lines. All told, more than 100 employees were involved in the restoration effort.
While snow-laden trees created issues for the system in some communities, many rural areas saw power poles snapped by snow, ice build-up and wind. About 400 poles were brought to the ground by the storm.
In many areas, most overhead power lines running north and south sustained damage. That damaged caused many miles of lines to fall to the ground. Making repairs and fixing overhead lines was a significant part of the extensive restoration effort. All told, crews traversed through snow and mud to replace or make repairs on at least 2,000 poles in the restoration process.
The storm damage was the most significant weather event experienced by NorthWestern in Montana in many years, noted Curt Pohl, vice president, Distribution. 'The initial cost for this restoration efforts has reached about $1.7 million,' Pohl said. 'However, we still have a lot of work to complete over the next few months, which will push our total restoration cost in excess of $2 million.'
'For those that had the opportunity to witness the devastation in the area, I think all would agree that is was nothing short of a humbling experience,' noted Merkel. 'The crews, supervisors, engineers and management team put together a great plan and I'm very proud of the executed response.'
While nearly all customers have had electricity restored, some lines providing non-essential service, including those for irrigation pumps, may not be restored until spring. NorthWestern crews still have a large task of cleaning up storm-damaged poles and materials and will work with affected landowners in coming weeks.
Any NorthWestern customers without service should contact the company immediately at (888) 467-2669.
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About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 709,600 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at www.northwesternenergy.com