Work continues in Butler County in northeast Iowa to shore up one of the hardest hit electrical systems in the winter storms earlier this month. Bob Bauman is the general manager of the Butler County Rural Electric Cooperative in Allison.
Bauman says they have 1,800 miles of line with damage to about every area of the system. Bauman says the lines are back up in the air, but the "lines are pretty fragile," and they’re working to get them into better shape. Bauman says the first step was to drive the lines and find the problems that needed immediate attention.
Bauman says that would be lines with low clearance, debris in the roads. He says crews have been working 10-hour shifts to get this work done, including cleaning up some 700 broken poles. Bauman says they also had to inventory all the material that was used and replenish supplies. Workers then must do some finishing work.
Bauman says probably the longest focused effort will be to restore the lines to pre-storm condition. Bauman says this is the one area where they’ll likely have outside help. He says they’ll bring in an engineering consultant and some contract crews to help with the work. Bauman says the damage and repair carry a hefty price tag.
Bauman says they estimated early on that it would cost them about two-million dollars, and he says it’s likely that number will go higher. Bauman says it has been a trying time, but there have been positives. He says one "absolute positive" is that the members of the coop have been supportive and realized it took a lot of work in the nine days to get the customers back on.
Bauman says they have some five thousand meters on the system and 90 to 95 percent of those customers lost power at some point during the storms. Bauman says he needs to get a report back on all the work yet to be done to estimate when they might have all the work completed.