Linemen work to restore power to the area in hazardous conditions

SIOUX FALLS S.D. (KSFY) - Freezing rain began yesterday and by noon on Wednesday, power outages were reported across the area.

"When the weather is like this we're going to have outages," Steve Kolbeck, Xcel Energy principal manager in South Dakota, said.

Kolbeck says this storm is unique since it is lasting more than just one day.

"When Mother Nature is the culprit you just really have to be on your toes because you never know what's going to happen," he said.

For peak outages, Xcel Energy saw 8,500 people affected, and for East River Electric Cooperative that number was almost double. While crews from both companies slowly continue to restore power to communities and residents, the weather isn't cooperating.

"Our crews have consistently worked out there trying to reroute power," Chris Studer, East River Electric Cooperative chief member and public relations officer, said. "We've had ice on switches out in the field, so sometimes it's been difficult to switch power from one line to another to try and reroute power to try and get people back on."

The Electric Cooperative along with Southeastern and Sioux Valley eventually decided to pull crews from their jobs. But, they began restoration early Thursday.

Xcel Energy worked throughout the night in shifts - allowing rest periods for their linemen.

"What we have to do is balance our customer reliability with the safety of our linemen," Kolbeck said. "So, all of those conditions if the line was to swing or was to blow if they have their hands in the air and something touches them, it's all a safety hazard. So, anytime the conditions are like this it's a struggle, it's a very real struggle."

More than 100 Xcel Energy linemen will be coming to Sioux Falls to help with the restoration process.