March 13 Power Outage Updates

Higher than normal wind patterns have caused trees to fall into power lines and other significant damage to electrical equipment. We are experiencing outages across the eastern part our service territory, spanning from Whitefish to the East Shore of Flathead Lake. Please bear with us as we work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. 

If you are experiencing a power outage, please report it by calling out outage line at 406-751-4449. (You’ll be transferred into our automated system so we can assess outages most quickly. During large outage situations we do not answer calls on this line because we are communicating with crews and emergency responders.)

As updates are available, we will post them on this page, so please check back.

Updates

3/16/20, 5:09 PM

143 members remain without power in some of these areas that were hit the very hardest. We are working in some very remote, heavily treed areas with major damage to complete this restoration process. While crews will continue working through the night, we can tell you that we don’t expect to be able to get all power restored until sometime tomorrow.

These areas should have power back up in the next several hours:

  • Whitefish: we have a tree in the line and needed a longer bucket truck. It’s in route now.
  • Highway 206: we are sending a crew that way shortly to make repairs there
  • Echo Lake: we are completing a pole replacement there shortly
  • Bigfork: should be back in a couple of hours

East Shore (Highway 35): two crews are still working this area and the larger part of this outage will restored before midnight. Unfortunately, the two smaller outages on the very south end of the line will likely remain out until tomorrow depending on how long the other outage takes to complete.

Ferndale, Highway 83:

  • Meadow Creek Area – crews are still there working and will get as much back on as they can tonight, but we anticipate that the area past Whitetail Road will likely be without power into tomorrow.
  • Red Owl – This was definitely one of the worst areas in terms of damage. Though crews are continuing work there, it likely won’t be on until sometime tomorrow.
  • Other smaller outages in the area will likely not be restored until tomorrow.

Some of our crew members asked that we publicly extend their thanks to the members they have encountered, especially in the greater Bigfork area, who have treated them with such hospitality and patience. We are lucky to work for the best members in the world. We know this has been as hard on you as it has been on us, but you all make it worth the fight!

3/15/20, 10:57 PM

This storm caused an enormous amount of damage and work for our crews. While we have restored power to almost all the members who were impacted, we still have 389 members without power. Unless otherwise noted below, those without power now should plan on being back up no earlier than late tomorrow afternoon.

Lake Blaine — For most of the area, we should be able to energize the wire by midnight and start bringing people back on after that. There may still be a few people in this area who remain without power into tomorrow, but most will be back on at some point in the middle of the night.

Jewel Basin — We have a crew replacing a pole there right now. Should be back on by 2 a.m.

East Shore — Still have 2 crews working in there. Should get most of that back on by midnight except for the few outages at the very south end of the line where we have a broken pole that will be replaced tomorrow.

Ferndale — We just restored some more members there; however, if your power is still out in that area, unfortunately it will remain out through the rest of the night.

Swan, Hwy 83 — There’s one outage about half way down the lake that will be repaired tonight. The remaining outages on highway 83 and down the Swan will remain out tonight until repairs can be completed tomorrow.

Some of our crews will continuing to work through the night, but we need to rest some at this point so they can come in fresh to complete the repairs tomorrow. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the crews for their dedication and work through this process, and with our members who are still without power.

3/15/20, 10:30 AM

The good news is that we’ve been able to get nearly all of the main line repairs made, restoring power to all but 892 members. The more challenging news is that restoring power to the remaining areas impacted involve more difficult repairs that just simply take time. We have multiple broken poles and smaller taps with significant damage. These fixes require significant labor, bringing in special equipment, waiting for utility locates, etc. We know it’s very difficult for members who are still out to be patient at this point, but we are working as quickly and strategically as we can to get the most people’s power restored as fast as we can. Here’s where we sit now:

East Shore, Highway 35: We were able to restore power to about 400 people in this area, however, 70 members still remain without power where the damage was worse than we had anticipated last night. We have two crews working (one on the North taps and one further south). We are hoping to have all power restored here later today.

Lake Blaine: We have a few major situations here. In one area, we need to replace a full mile of line. We have an 8-man crew working on that now. They have been pulling wire this morning. We are hoping to have that back up later this afternoon. We have an additional crew in the area fixing broken poles and putting up wire, and hope to have those repairs completed by early evening.

Echo Lake: We have two full crews working in the Echo Lake area to change out four broken poles and put wire back up in several places. This area will come back up sporadically throughout today and into this evening as repairs are made.

Highway 83 from Ferndale to Swan Lake: We have been able to get in and assess most of the damage here. We have three full crews working this area. We are dealing with multiple broken poles and downed line causing spot outages around this area. Power will be restored sporadically throughout this afternoon and into tonight as repairs are completed.

Other Areas: We have a few smaller spot outages around the Valley on the West Shore, in Columbia Falls and on Highway 206. We have a crew floating around to tackle those and anticipate that they will all be back up by this evening.

If you are interested in learning more about how power restoration is planned and prioritized during storm situations, please watch this video:

3/14/20 9:50 PM

Update to Highway 35:

Unfortunately, additional assessments have shown more extensive damage than we originally thought along the East Lake Shore. We still have several crews working in the area and expect to get the main line back on; however, some taps will remain without power into tomorrow. 

3/14/20 7:20 PM

We have made some good progress repairing equipment and restoring power over the last several hours. Since the winds have died down, we are able to give much more specific updates on the 2,154 members who remain without power. Please keep in mind that these estimates are our best guess given the information we know at this point. The tree damage from this storm appears to be even worse than the wind storm that passed through on Thanksgiving, and it’s not uncommon for us to encounter residual damage or issues we aren’t aware of. With that in mind, here’s what we can tell you:

Whitefish: We expect all outages in this area to be repaired and power to be restored tonight before midnight.

Highway 206: We’ve made excellent progress here, and power should be restored in the very short future (not including Lake Blaine).

Lake Blaine: We do not expect to be able to get power restored here tonight as we have a full mile of wire needs to be replaced. This area will be out until at least mid-day tomorrow.

Echo Lake: This area is particularly challenging. The damage is widely scattered, making it one of the most difficult areas to predict. We will bring power back up piece by piece as repairs are completed. Some people will get power tonight, and some in this area will not be restored until tomorrow.

East Lake Shore: This area should be completely restored before midnight tonight.

West Lake Shore: This is a new outage, and we don’t expect that we will be able to get it restored tonight. Please prepare to be out of power until some point tomorrow.

Highway 83: We anticipate being able to restore power to nearly everyone north of Highway 209 (Ferndale cut across) by midnight tonight. The damage south of Highway 209 down Highway 83 and through Swan Lake is significant. We haven’t even been able to access some of it at this point. Work continues in this area, but if you are south of Highway 209, please plan to be without power into late tomorrow.

Our thoughts are with the members impacted by this storm. We know how challenging this situation is for you. Thank you to the hundreds of members who have reached out to express their gratitude to our employees. We hear you, and want you to know that we will continue to work tirelessly to until your power is restored.

3/14/20, 2:53 PM

This is the first bit of good new we’ve had. The wind is still blowing, but the damage seems to be slowing down. Although it’s little by little, we are making some progress to bring the overall outage count down. 3,109 members still remain without power at this point.

We have been able to start the analysis on the “big-picture” damage to the system. We know we have a lot of broken poles in some critical areas. We do anticipate being able to make significant progress in the next 8-10 hours, but will definitely still have pockets of power outages overnight and into tomorrow, possibly even tomorrow night. By this evening, we should have a much better idea of what we’re dealing with on the whole, and will be able to provide some more specific updates.

Crews have been working nonstop since the storm started, and won’t stop until power has been restored. We have done everything we can to call in reinforcements. We have 46 crew members on the ground now, (almost double our FEC lineman count), thanks to outside help we’ve been able to recruit — and there are more on the way. We are so grateful!

We are all hands on deck in every sense of the word — FEC staff from lineworkers, substation crews, tree crews, warehouse, dispatchers, communications, meter services, engineering, management and more are doing everything they can to help with the restoration effort.

This video of one small stretch of Highway 206 this afternoon gives you an idea of the damage we sustained across our service area:

More storm photos:

3/14/20, 9:30 AM

Please plan for prolonged outages. The wind blew all night and has continued to blow making it impossible for us to keep up. Many of our crews worked through the night and were able to make repairs and restore some power, but many more outages have occurred since then. We currently have over 50 power outages impacting 4,395 members. In some areas, we had to give up and wait until this morning because the access was impossible and dangerous in the conditions. We have crews working now in Whitefish, and scattered from Highway 206 and south to Bigfork. Trees in lines have part of the Swan highway shut down — we do have a crew there working on cutting through the trees, but access is still extremely limited and getting worse with the sustained winds. We have crews on both sides of Flathead Lake. We are hoping to have the west shore wrapped up soon so that crew can move on to help in other areas.

The damage is extensive, and we have brought in additional help from neighboring utilities and contractors in the area to assist with this effort. Our operations team is working hard to dispatch crews and get more help here. We have extra staff in all critical areas and are strategizing the best ways to keep crews rested and fed through what we know will be a long restoration effort.

Until we can get a break in the wind, we expect that progress will be limited and slow. With this amount of damage, many of the current outages will likely last through tonight and into tomorrow. We understand the frustration and concern power outages cause our members, but know that we will continue working through these challenging conditions until power has been restored to all. At this point, we are in triage mode, but we will do our best to keep you updated as things progress today.

3/13/20, 9:51 PM

We wish we had better news to report, but the outage situation looks bleak tonight. The winds are still howling, and trees are falling onto lines faster than crews can remove them. We will continue to work through the night to clear and repair as much as we can, but we do not think we will be able to make much progress. Most everyone who is still out of power will be out through the night. We expect some areas may be out well into Saturday and possibly even Sunday. Unfortunately, there’s so much damage and the weather is such that we don’t have more specific updates right now. Please prepare for a night without power. Temperatures are expected to drop into the single digits tonight, so we are urging members to plan accordingly.

The weather advisory remains in effect until tomorrow at noon. This is a treacherous and frustrating situation for all. We will continue to provide updates in the morning and through the rest of this outage situation. We are at the mercy of the wind, and as long as it continues to blow, the situation will get worse before it gets better. We understand the challenges power outages cause our members and want to assure you we are doing our best to restore your power and keep you updated.

3/13/20, 7:23 PM

Although crews have repaired multiple outages and restored power to many members, the outage count has continued to climb, reaching 3,328 members impacted at this time. The winds have continued to blow as hard as we’ve seen all day. Unfortunately, until the winds subside and we can get ahead of them, we expect the situation will get worse as outages are occurring much faster than we can repair them right now.

We anticipate that we will have many members without power throughout the night and into tomorrow. We understand how difficult it is to be without power, but we are asking members to prepare for prolonged outages. We will continue working straight through this storm to get power restored as soon as we can. Thank you for your continued patience and concern for our crews.

3/13/20, 6:06 PM

The current outage count is at 2,700 members. Progress is being made, but damages to our system are occurring faster than our crews can repair them at this point. This video shows trees falling a half a span from one of our crews working on a tap that is down across Highway 206.

Here are some additional photos of damage (click to enlarge):

3/13/20, 5:32 PM

URGENT! Never attempt to cut or remove a tree off a power line. Even if it doesn’t look like it, the line may still be energized. Wait for a professional to get there. We will be there as soon as possible. If you are experiencing or observing an emergency situation, please call 911. 

We have nine crews out working currently in the Highway 206, Echo Lake, Ferndale, Highway 83 and Highway 35 East Lake Shore areas. We have another crew heading out now. We are all hands on deck at this point, and will continue to work until power has been restored.

3/13/20 5:16 PM

1,494 members are currently out of power. Crews are working to remove multiple large trees from lines and make repairs, but progress will be slow in some areas until the winds die down. Echo Lake, Bigfork, East Shore and Swan Lake areas have been hit hardest at this point. We have called in additional crews to help tackle the situation. Working in high winds is dangerous and challenging, and we thank you for your patience and well wishes for our crews as they do their best make repairs to the system and get our members’ power restored.

The following video shows how hard the winds are still blowing. We expect to have additional outages caused by this storm, so please prepare and stay safe.