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Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Mich. villages see power quickly restored in wake of storm thanks to mutual aid, village crews

Officials in the neighboring Michigan villages of Baraga and L’Anse were able to have power quickly restored to their residents thanks to the communities’ electric lineworkers, as well as others from neighboring utilities, in the wake of a destructive weekend storm.

Severe weather struck around 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, eventually knocking out electric service to all 1,134 homes and businesses in L’Anse. In Baraga, approximately 50 homes and businesses lost power, Wisconsin joint action agency WPPI Energy reported on Sept. 30.

“The damage was incredible,” said L’Anse Village Manager Bob LaFave in a statement. “To put the impact in perspective, we share a highly skilled line crew with Baraga that is more than capable of meeting our village’s normal needs, but this situation required that crew’s nearly non-stop efforts—plus another 16 lineworkers—to respond.”

The storm dropped trees onto power lines, breaking several poles and ripping electric service connections from many buildings, WPPI Energy noted. In L’Anse, virtually every roadway was impassable until crews could safely move the downed lines and use chainsaws to clear single lanes of traffic through the fallen trees.

Both villages own and operate their own public power utilities and share a local, two-person line crew through their member-owned power supplier, WPPI Energy.

The lineworkers responded immediately, with one clearing through snapped and uprooted trees for two hours just to access needed equipment in the utility shop. They restored power to most of Baraga by 3 a.m. Saturday.

In L’Anse, the damage extended to other utility facilities in areas beyond the village, impacting the delivery of power into the community, WPPI Energy said. Power was returned to L’Anse’s system at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, and the village began restoring service to customers immediately thereafter.

The lineworkers received significant support from village public works employees who continued to clean the streets and open and close traffic lanes as needed.  The villages also called on their fellow WPPI member utilities and a local electric cooperative in the area for assistance.

“Not only do we have a highly dedicated local crew, but we are also part of something bigger,” says LeAnn LeClaire, village manager for Baraga in a statement. “When challenges arise, we can leverage the shared strength that comes from working together with other like-minded communities.”

Through a utility mutual aid program, locally owned, not-for-profit utilities throughout the region assist one another in restoring service to customers following major storm events, WPPI Energy noted.

Responding to the call for help were the WPPI member municipal electric utilities of Crystal Falls, Negaunee and Norway in the Upper Peninsula, and Eagle River and Florence in Wisconsin. Lineworkers from Michigan’s Ontonagon Rural Electric Association responded as well.

Service to all customers was restored by 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night.