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January 22, 2010 04:50 PM

Power Crews Scramble To Beat Storm

Power crews from five states are converging in South Dakota. Twenty-six-hundred poles are down, and repair crews are scrambling to restore electricity before the weekend storms weighs down power lines with even more ice.

Central Electric Cooperative crews have been able to bring hundreds of customers back on line since Thursday. But despite their progress, they aren't optimistic of finishing their work before the freezing rain arrives.

Central Electric repairmen conduct their high-wire act in the wind and rain southwest of Mitchell, fully expecting an encore performance through the weekend.

"I don't think we're going to get done today and it's supposed to get worse tonight, so we won't be done tomorrow either," Tim Harrington of Central Electric Cooperative said.

The pressure mounts with each downed line for crews who know more freezing rain is on the way.

"We're kind of in hurry up mode.  We're being proactive.  We're not reacting to what's going on today," Harrington said.

You can't run a farm without electricity. Lance Olsen has been running his backup generator since Thursday afternoon.

"I had a little glitch that I had to get it worked on, but I got it back on now.  It takes a lot of fuel to run it, that's the big deal," Olsen said.

It was 56-degrees inside Olsen's house at noon Friday. He's grateful the power is coming back to his place, but Olsen will keep his generator on standby should the weekend storm leave him in the dark again.

"I don't know how long it's going to last, chances are we'll lose it again. I guess keep things plugged in and ready to roll," Olsen said.

The frustrating part for repair crews is as soon as they fix one area, problems quickly spring up elsewhere. One Central Electric power line north of Mitchell went down three separate times this week. In between the big jobs, repairmen make house calls to fix smaller wire problems to make sure no customers are missed.

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