Monday, July 13, 2020

Thankful for response to storm

| June 4, 2020 1:00 AM

As if 2020 needed more drama.

Northwest Montana took a surprise shot to the chin Sunday when a wild thunderstorm ripped through the region, delivering ferocious winds and sheets of rain more familiar to Florida than the mountain West.

The aftermath included thousands of snapped trees and fallen branches — many taking aim on homes, vehicles and power lines. Electricity outages were extensive, affecting some 37,000 Flathead Electric Co-op customers at one point.

The novelty of “roughing it” in the dark wanes quickly as nighttime falls, hot water tanks go cold and freezers thaw. Thankfully, it didn’t last long for the majority of valley residents.

Crews with Flathead Electric have been working around the clock since the storm hit, and are receiving further assistance from Missoula Electric Cooperative, Glacier Electric Co-op, Rocky Mountain Contractors, Aspen Urban Forestry, Associated Arborists and Glacier Traffic Control.

Everyone involved with the effort deserves praise for their systematic work to restore power to as many customers as possible, as efficiently as possible.

Within a few hours of the storm, linemen had repaired a key substation that feeds North Kalispell as well as the transmission line feeding Big Mountain and Whitefish. Within 24 hours, some 25,000 customers had their power back.

Crews are still chipping away at a few remaining outages, and “they will continue their work here for the duration and operation efforts are continuing at the same vigorous pace as when the outages began if not more so,” according to Flathead Electric’s latest outage update.

Local first-responders also deserve a tip of the hat for their efforts to clear roads of fallen trees and keep the public safe from dangerous live wires.

It was a busy day for fire departments across the valley. Whitefish Fire crews were called out nearly 50 times in the aftermath, while Ferndale Fire crews cleared an untold number of trees in the hard-hit Swan Lake area.

“Storms like that bring the community together even more,” commented Brian Truckey, owner and general manager of the Ferndale Market, who witnessed the storm and cleanup effort.

A fierce storm was met with an equally strong response by local linemen and first-responders, who always rise to the occasion when the going gets tough.