September 30, 2020

Mutual Aid Delivers Shared Strength for Communities

Member Utilities

Officials in the neighboring villages of Baraga and L’Anse are thanking the communities’ electric lineworkers, along with others from neighboring utilities, for their significant efforts to restore service in the wake of a destructive weekend storm.

Severe weather struck around 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, eventually knocking out electric service to all 1,134 homes and businesses in L’Anse. In Baraga, approximately 50 homes and businesses lost power.

“The damage was incredible,” says L’Anse Village Manager Bob LaFave. “To put the impact in perspective, we share a highly skilled line crew with Baraga that is more than capable of meeting our village’s normal needs, but this situation required that crew’s nearly non-stop efforts—plus another 16 lineworkers—to respond.”

The storm dropped countless trees onto power lines, breaking several poles and ripping electric service connections from many buildings. In L’Anse, virtually every roadway was impassable until crews could safely move the downed lines and use chainsaws to clear single lanes of traffic through the fallen trees.

Both villages own and operate their own, not-for-profit, municipal electric utilities and share a local, two-person line crew through their member-owned power supplier, WPPI Energy. The lineworkers responded immediately, with one clearing through snapped and uprooted trees for two hours just to access needed equipment in the utility shop. They restored power to most of Baraga by 3 a.m. Saturday. In L’Anse, the damage extended to other utility facilities in areas beyond the village, impacting the delivery of power into the community. Power was returned to L’Anse’s system at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, and the village began restoring service to customers immediately thereafter.

The lineworkers received significant support from village public works employees who continued to clean the streets and open and close traffic lanes as needed.  The villages also called on their fellow WPPI member utilities and a local electric cooperative in the area for assistance.

“Not only do we have a highly dedicated local crew, but we are also part of something bigger,” says LeAnn LeClaire, village manager for Baraga. “When challenges arise, we can leverage the shared strength that comes from working together with other like-minded communities.”

Through a utility mutual aid program, locally owned, not-for-profit utilities throughout the region assist one another in restoring service to customers following major storm events. Responding to the call for help were the WPPI member municipal electric utilities of Crystal Falls, Negaunee and Norway in the Upper Peninsula, and Eagle River and Florence in Wisconsin. Lineworkers from the Ontonagon Rural Electric Association responded as well.

Negaunee’s Electric Superintendent Mark Waino gave praise to the crews.

“They step up and make the trip to provide much-needed assistance, and we are all stronger together as a result,” Waino says. “I have confidence that if this were to happen in Negaunee, we can count on getting back that same support.”

Service to all customers was restored by 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night.