Winter storms can be crippling – especially when it impacts electric utilities. Wet, heavy snow, ice, and high wind speeds create treacherous conditions that cause power outages and make power restoration difficult.

When a bad storm hits and outages are widespread it can sometimes take assistance from outside help to restore power to members. Minnesota’s electric cooperatives participate in the national power restoration program known as “Mutual Aid” where line workers, tree-clearing crews, damage assessors, and safety teams join forces during massive outages.

Recently, McLeod Co-op Power sent two trucks and four linemen to provide mutual aid in power restoration following a multi-day storm affecting Lake Country Power’s service territory. At the height of the storm, more than 12,700 of Lake Country Power’s 43,000 members were impacted in northern Minnesota. Crews had more than 500 outage points to assess, repair, and restore.

Trees, heavily laden with heavy, wet snow and ice, toppled and lost branches which tore down power lines and broke poles. The local linemen worked with crews from five other entities in support of restoring power. “In some places, the trees bowed over from the heavy snow to create archways over the roads. Many branches were hanging low over roads and the booms on the trucks would hit them causing the snow to fall into the buckets or the back of the truck,” said Craig Marti, McLeod Co-op Line Foreman.

“Without the mutual aid from five other cooperatives in the state, including McLeod, our members would have been out of power much longer than late Sunday night, and that’s when the bitter cold was starting to set into our region,” said Derek Howe, Lake Country Power chief operating officer. “We are so thankful for their help. I’ve been here 12 years and this is definitely the worst winter storm I’ve seen.”

Electric cooperatives have a long history of providing mutual aid during emergency situations. McLeod Co-op has been on both the sending and receiving ends of mutual aid. When storms create havoc with electric infrastructure, the influx of needed personnel and equipment is extremely valuable. People need electricity and cooperatives always put forth their best efforts to restore power as safely as conditions allow.

“I’m very proud of our crews and their willingness to always help others that are in need. When we were first asked to assist with the storm damage in northern Minnesota, our guys said yes with no hesitation,” shared Emerson Brady, McLeod Co-op Operations Manager. “This type of attitude and cooperation is so important because there will be a day when our Cooperative will need help from others. It’s satisfying and humbling to work with such a wonderful group of electrics cooperatives.”

McLeod Co-op Power employees, Ryan Schuette and Brad Hundt, also shared highlights from their involvement.

“The amount of deep snow was really something we don’t see too often in our service territory. There were so many trees bent over from all the heavy snow. I have to say that it was rewarding to help their members get their power back when they had been off so long in the cold.” – Brad Hundt, Line Worker

“There was heavy snow cover that brought down a lot of trees on the lines. Maybe the most memorable thing for me was how grateful all the members were. Whenever we were at the gas station or getting something to eat people would offer to pay for our supplies. They were very grateful for all the guys that were helping up there.” – Ryan Schuette, Line Foreman