Power Outages Plague Rural South Dakota After Massive Blizzard


Some residents in western South Dakota have been without power for almost a week following a massive October blizzard that dumped a couple of feet of snow on the region.

Crews are trying to get things back to normal but the storm was massive and affects such a widespread area, it's taking a long time to get everything back to normal.

Meanwhile, some residents are getting tired of waiting.

Living at the end of the line has its beautiful benefits for residents of Spearfish Canyon in the Northern Black Hills. It has it's complications, too.

"We've been counting the days until the power comes back," resident Erika Graham said.

Following the October 4 blizzard that knocked out power to 40,000 customers across West River, heavy rains last week and a mix of rain, snow and wind on Monday night have complicated the chores of line crews trying reach isolated customers.

That's especially true in the rugged, steep terrain of the canyon, where crews from Butte Electric Cooperative have used snowshoes, all-terrain vehicles and even bulldozers to deal with the trying conditions.

"It's been a struggle to say the least,” Butte Electric General Manager John Lee said.

By Tuesday morning, Butte had restored power to all but 28 of the about 2,000 customers who lost it in the big blizzard. But the overnight storm was yet another setback.

“We received a fair amount of rain and snow and it started building up on us," Lee said. "So some of the progress we made, last (Monday) night some of our wires came back down."

The co-op's crews hope to get power to the remaining customers in the next few days. But given their location, it won't be easy.

When the big blizzard hit, Graham was home with three family dogs at the cabin she shares with her husband, Jim. She would spend most of give days stranded without power because neighbors rented snow-moving gear to get her out.

“You know, I thought, well, there's all those things I can do. I can read books. I can relax. And in truth, I shoveled snow. I made fires. I shoveled snow. Then it got dark and I went to bed,” Graham said.

It has gotten better since her husband Jim returned from work in Texas. The couple bought a gas-generator that provides several hours of electricity a day. And they got out to work on their other home in Whitewood, which was damaged by the storm. Then the snow came again this week, and locked them in again.

"And again, Butte Electric has been terrific, but it would be really nice to have a water heater," Erika said.

Officials for electrical cooperatives hope improved weather will help them restore power to most of their remaining customers by Sunday. Meanwhile, they remind everyone to stay away from downed lines.

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