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Downed tree creates 'dangerous situation' at Bozeman business

Eckroth tree.jpg
Posted at 12:00 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 14:43:29-04

BOZEMAN — Power outages plagued many areas across Gallatin County on Monday with downed power lines also causing dangerous scenarios.

At one point earlier Monday between Montana State University, downtown Bozeman and all the way in Belgrade, thousands of customers with NorthWestern Energy were experiencing power outages due to varying factors with this winter weather — factors along the lines of a large downed tree in the parking lot of Eckroth Music, at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Mendenhall.

“If it is a high voltage, that is something that could kill someone if they get too close,” says Anna Brewer, manager of Eckroth Music.

Branches snapped, power lines caught within them like a spiderweb, a sight seen across the Gallatin Valley.

“We’ve had people walking through the parking lot. We’ve had people coming through, customers trying to come in and shop and so myself and my employees have been stationed by the door, trying to catch people and wave them down and try and keep them safe,” Brewer said.

Rather than try to navigate the risk, manager Anna Brewer spoke with Cody over the phone from just inside the store’s door frame while he stood across the street, recounting how this first snow brought hazard.

“Depending on if it snows again later today, I think the rest of it will go down,” Brewer said. “The branch that is leaning over Mendenhall is looking pretty dangerous in my opinion.”

One of Anna’s fears: the power line stretched from the tree into standing water lingering across the parking lot. Her employees continued to call out to customers for several hours, while calls to 911 were made.

“Once 911 gets here to block off our parking lot, that will be a huge relief off of our shoulders,” Brewer said.

At one time, 1,000 to 3,000 people lost power just north of Main Street while 500 to 1,000 lost power in downtown Bozeman proper. And hundreds of others lost power from Bozeman to Four Corners, up through Belgrade, stretching northwest.

“NorthWestern Energy is very busy right now and they are responding as quickly as they can but they just can’t get to everybody so we are just patiently waiting,” Brewer says.

NorthWestern Energy says it’s winter’s sudden reminder: traffic lights went out, making them four-way stops, and power lines like this could create immediately dangerous situations.

As Anna’s staff worked to protect their customers, she says they also kept pushing through inside.

“We are just working away, doing online rentals and things for the Bozeman School District,” Brewer said. “We’re not stopping for this.”