Storms cause customer outages, extensive damage to NPPD transmission lines

June 20, 2011

Columbus, Neb.- A strong storm front, containing several reported tornadoes, caused extensive damage to Nebraska Public Power District’s transmission system and several outages to customers in its retail communities.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Monday and into the evening hours, NPPD reported several segments of transmission lines, primarily northwest of Kearney, had been damaged. A fourth segment between York and Aurora was out of service, and a fifth between Neligh and O’Neill was reported out of service but has been restored. Preliminary information indicates 21 transmission line structures, including several steel, lattice towers are on the ground in an area between Lexington, Sweetwater, and Axtell. Four structures are also down between York and Aurora.

NPPD officials are urging the public to remain away from any power line that is on the ground. “Any power line on the ground could possibly still be energized. It is best to allow NPPD line technicians to respond and remove any power lines,” said John Humphrey, transmission and distribution manager for the District. Where transmission lines have fallen across county roads, local law enforcement has blocked them off from traffic. Crews are currently assessing damage and developing a plan for restoration of the lines.

The District also saw distribution outages in four retail communities that NPPD serves. More than 3,400 customers were without power at various times Monday in Elm Creek (522 customers), Aurora (1,100), McCook (742), and Norfolk (715). All customers in Aurora and McCook have had their power restored and a majority of Elm Creek customers have been returned to service, with the remainder expected later Monday night. Damage and outages were also reported in Hampton where NPPD operates the community’s electric distribution system.

Crews are currently assessing damage and developing a plan for restoration of the lines.

NPPD saw 20 transmission line structures damaged early Monday morning during a separate storm that moved between McCook, Holdrege and Axtell.

NPPD also recommends additional safety tips for customers who are without power:

  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics that were being used when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace.
  • Leave one light turned on so you will know when your power returns.
  • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.
  • Use the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information. Do not call 9-1-1 for information — only call to report a life-threatening emergency.
  • Remember that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not work during a power outage.