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Long After Blizzard, Power-Line Cleanup Work Continues

March 2, 2014, 10:00 PM by Kevin Woster

Long After Blizzard, Power-Line Cleanup Work Continues
KEYSTONE, SD -

For power-line crews in the Black Hills, it's a job that never seems to end.

Most of the snow from the blizzard five months ago is gone. Broken power poles have long since been replaced. But the work of clearing debris from power-line right-of-way corridors goes on and on.

 "We still have a lot of broken trees and broken branches, so there were a lot of fork-topped trees that have half the tree broke out, so we have to go through and take all those out," says David Powers, a specialist in power-corridor work for Black  Hills Electric Cooperative.

Amid the rocky slopes and dense forest, the cooperative's crews live with challenges their counterparts on the prairie seldom face.

 "Sometimes it's flat. A lot of times it's steep country," Powers says. "There are a lot of broken limbs we have to go through and cut away, too, and make sure the next snow load doesn't bring limbs down on the line."

That's important both to prevent future power outages if limbs land on the lines. And cooperative crews often hike into the rough stuff with chainsaws and limb cutters to remove the dangers.

There's more at stake than maintaining a dependable electrical system. It's easy for a fallen line to spark a blaze, especially during hot, dry conditions.

"We don't want our members to be out of power, so were trying to get everything cleaned up as quick as we can," Powers says. "And there's no real threat of fire now, obviously, with snow on the ground. But when summertime, hits then we need to make sure that everything's cleaned up, so there's no threat of fire."

There's no time to waste, either. The spring fire season begins when the snow finally melts.

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