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Bitterroot Rural Electric members cope with power outage in below-zero temps

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Feb 06 2014 06:37:31 PM MST
Updated On: Feb 06 2014 09:16:35 PM MST

Power for 4,500 Rural Electric members went out just before 6 a.m. Thursday.

CORVALLIS, Mont. -

As many as 4,500 Rural Electric Co-op members from Florence to Corvallis lost power just before 6 a.m. Thursday.

For most Rural Electric members the power was off about 1 hour and 40 minutes. It took 3 hours for about 75 rural electric members near Victor.

Schools and businesses closed.

Just as  people were starting their day, people found every day activity frozen in place.

Robin Enos had just opened The Merc Fresh Market in Corvallis. Then the power died.

"When the lights go out you can't really do anything," said Enos. "You can't make coffee. You can't get your register on."

The store gets a lot of early morning traffic, with lots of gas customers.

"You found people pulling up to the pumps," said Enos, "noticing everything is dark. They can't pump gas, they can't come in and get their breakfast or their coffee."

It was back on in about an hour.

Corvallis School Superintendent Monte Silk delayed school for two hours.

"Better safe than sorry," said Silk. "We don't know if we have to re-heat the building."

A little after 10 a.m., Corvallis kids finally made their way to school. Lone Rock and Stevensville Schools didn't open at all.

At the Rural Electric Co-op in Corvallis, a technician monitored the situation via computer.

"We saw what happened on the east coast," said manager Jim Maunder,"cold weather is a bad time for it to hit."

Overnight temperatures at the Dobberstein Ranch near Victor dropped to 20 below zero. The power didn't go out.

Angie Dobberstein checked the family's cattle and their heated water trough to make sure it was flowing properly. It was.

"We rely on electricity," said Dobberstein, "making sure we don't have to haul water for the cattle."

In Hamilton, manicurist Bonnie Jean Thurman woke up to 7 below zero. She was glad to be in a warm salon, and said it could be worse.

"My son lives in North Dakota," said Thurman, "and it was 50 below zero."