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Energy

A week after damaging snow storm, electric coop works to restore power in eastern Montana

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Courtesy Sheridan Electric Cooperative
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A crew member works to restore power in eastern Montana after severe storms last week knocked down about 500 power lines in the region.

Almost a week since a major winter storm sent blizzard conditions through eastern Montana and knocked out power for large swaths of Montana and northwest North Dakota, Sheridan Electric Cooperative is still working to get residential customers back on line before another storm slams the region.

Josh Johnson with the Medicine Lake-based cooperative says getting residents’ power restored is slow going.

"We’ve got stretches where we’re getting stuck in the mud and then the next stretch we're stuck in the snow," Johnson said. "It’s not easy going but the guys are plugging away."

The coop has 10 crews out in northeast Montana and northwestern North Dakota, including workers from Beartooth, Fergus and McCone Electric Coops.

The crews are replacing power and transmission lines and the estimated 500 power poles damaged by what Johnson calls a perfect storm.

"It started raining and that froze to the lines, putting ice on them. Then it started snowing and the snow built up. And then the winds came," he said.

"It was, I think, a peak wind gust of 65 mph and it was basically due north so  it caught the lines just perfect."

Johnson says the coop’s priority is getting homes hooked up. Some commercial customers may not get power restored until next month.