Posted: Aug 16, 2012 7:33 AM by Tara Grimes - MTN News
Updated: Aug 16, 2012 8:11 AM
GREAT FALLS- Police blocked off areas around downed power lines and trees that weren't a safety hazard on Tuesday, and continued responding to other calls, but in other cases, they had live power lines and had to wait until NorthWestern Energy arrived.
It took several several city departments and off-duty city officials to manage the situation.
The city's 911 dispatch center says it received a record number of calls during a three hour period; staff say they usually field about 80 incoming calls a day, but between 8 pm and 11 pm. on Tuesday, they received 157 calls.
Even with five dispatchers, there were several times when all nine 911 lines were busy, and as calls began to flood into the center, the city activated the emergency operations center.
NorthWestern Energy reports the storm knocked out power to more than 5,000 customers, stretching from Choteau to Great Falls to Fort Benton. Crews worked throughout the night and continued repairing damage all day.
NWE spokesman Scott Patera says countless lines and 20 poles were downed by the storm.
According to Patera, every available crew member in Great Falls and the surrounding area was called out. The crews worked on fixing big problems first, and they're expected to be busy with minor repairs for a few more days.
Several fires were triggered shortly after 8 p.m. and fanned by the gusty winds. Dozens of volunteer firefighters from at least four departments helped at the Flood Road fire just southwest of Great Falls; that fire destroyed a barn.
Over on Hill 57, residents watched as flames moved toward their homes for the second time in six weeks. Crews from Black Eagle, Malmstrom, and Sand Coulee tackled the fire, and Great Falls Fire Rescue assisted to make sure homes in the Valley View area were protected.
No injuries have been reported.