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Dillon News

'Perfect Storm' shuts down power in southwest Montana

By Perry Backus, of The Montana Standard

DILLON -- All the right weather conditions came together to create a power providers' nightmare in south west Montana on Thursday.
Power outages were report ed in a four-county area in and around Butte after ice began to build up on utility lines early Thursday. The most concentrat ed outage occurred in Twin Bridges, which was without power from 5:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Claudia Rapkoch, Montana Power Co. communications director, said Twin Bridges lost two power feeds after snow caused tree branches to cross the lines in one place and ice took out a conductor in another location.
`` They had a double dose,'' she said. `` Otherwise, the out ages were sporadic and scat tered.''
The areas around Dillon, Sheridan, Alder and Virginia City were also hit by the power problems. Rapkoch said this storm was more typical of one that might hit central Montana.
Vigilante Electric Cooperative general manager Dave Alberi said he's only seen conditions come together like this twice in the 20 years he's been in Dillon. `` It was like the perfect storm,'' Alberi said. `` The conditions were just ideal for the lines begin to ice.''
For ice to build up on power lines to the point that problems are created, temperatures have to hover just around that freez ing point and moisture levels need to be high, Alberi said.
`` All the ingredients were there,'' he said.
Vigilante crews were out early Thursday, and Alberi said they would most likely be work ing late into the evening. By late afternoon, most power had been restored, he said.
`` Our guys have been scram bling,'' said Alberi.
Will it happen again?
`` You tell me what the tem peratures and snow conditions are going to be like. Then I can probably give you a better answer,'' he said.

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