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Cleanup continues after winter weather hits the Flathead

FEC Power Outage
FEC Outage2
FEC Power Outage
FEC power out
Kalispell Snow Nov 2
Posted at 4:04 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 09:14:05-04

KALISPELL - The start to November was a drastic change from the fall we experienced in October.

Wednesday’s winter storm wreaked havoc in Northwest Montana and Flathead Electric Cooperative (FEC) crews are still working to restore power.

While FEC and its mutual aid crews worked through the night to repair all transmission lines in the service area, small outages continue to occur.

Thousands are still without out power as crews work tirelessly to turn the lights back on.

FEC Outage2
Crews continue restoring power in the Flathead after snowfall on Nov. 2, 2022.

The storm is causing a different challenge than previous outages because leaves combined with heavy snow are breaking branches on the same tree, over and over again.

“So, we will get a line back on and five minutes later it will be off again because another branch has fallen which is very unnerving for our crew who is working and also very inconvenient and frustrating for our members who think the power is back on and then it’s going off again,” spokeswoman Courtney Stone explained.

She says it’s all hands on deck as more than 100 crew members are working day and night with outages affecting residents throughout the entire valley.

“Some people may need to be prepared to be without power throughout the weekend, so whether you need extra food or infant formula or pet food for your family; or whether you need to go to another person’s house that does have heat, we encourage you to prepare for the possibility that this could be an extended outage,” Stone noted.

FEC Power Outage

South Kalispell Fire Chief Chris Yerkes and his team of volunteers worked throughout the night responding to 29 calls for aid. They usually average one a day.

“This has far surpassed any of the windstorms we’ve dealt with or anything else,” Yerkes said.

He and his team are taking off time from their day jobs to make sure their neighbors stay safe.

“Those of us that are still here have been running calls essentially since shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday morning and through the night and continuing now,” Yerkes told MTN News.

Yerkes wants to remind residents to stay away from downed power lines.

“We had a couple close calls with private parties yesterday that were trying to be helpful and thankfully we were able to get them stopped before it turned into a bad situation.”

FEC Power Outage

“Even a trained lineman cannot look at a line on the ground and know whether or not it is energized,” Stone explained. “So, in order to stay alive, you need to assume that the line is live and stay away from it.”

Stone says crew members are reporting safety issues, with residents approaching them while they’re trying to restore power.

“If you would please let them work. We’re seeing some safety issues, And, whether you’re thanking them for the good work that they’re doing or whether you’re trying to report another problem, either way, if you would just call the Co-op or visit our outage center online that would be most helpful so that they can get the lights back on,” Stone advised.

Yerkes asks residents without power to make sure wood stoves and generators are properly cleaned and maintained before use, or else another disaster could strike.

The latest FEC power outage information can be found here.

Here are some helpful tips if you encounter a power outage:

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
  • Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • If safe, go to an alternate location for heat or cooling.
  • Check on neighbors.