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David City experiences ice storm

David City experiences ice storm

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Butler Public Power District General Manager Mark Kirby said he didn't rest well the night of Nov. 10 knowing that 1,100 customers were out of power. But, after working for 20 hours, he had to call his linemen in to sleep.

Kirby has worked for the district for almost three decades and said this was the worst damage he's ever seen.

"We've been hit by ice storms before but not district-wide, where it's east to west and north to south. In my career at Butler, this is by far the worst one we've ever had. And I would say that ice-buildup-wise as well," Kirby said.

On some wires, he said, the ice was as thick as a golf ball.

The wide swath cut by the ice storm the evening of Nov. 9 into the morning of Nov. 10 was responsible for the delays in getting the district's power customers back online.

Butler Public Power put out the call for mutual aid right away at 5 a.m. on Nov. 10, but to the north, southwest and west, Cornhusker, Perennial and Polk County Rural power districts were all dealing with the same damage. 

"Normally what would happen is one of us would get hit and then all of us would go help them," Kirby said.

But with almost all the surrounding power districts tied up in the same kind of mess, that wasn't possible.

Some help did come to the district's 14 linemen on Tuesday, Nov. 10, though. 

Four additional bucket trucks and eight linemen arrived from Norris Public Power out of Beatrice and another two bucket trucks and three linemen came from Howard Greeley Rural Public Power District in Saint Paul.

After patrolling the district that Tuesday, Kirby said he found new areas of serious damage.

The Howard Greeley crews and trucks had to leave after Nov. 10, but another two bucket trucks and four linemen from Norris took their place the following day to deal with the additional damage sites, as well as two bucket trucks and four linemen from Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District in Ord.

Wednesday, Nov. 11, also brought warmer temperatures and lines began to thaw.

When Kirby spoke to the Banner-Press that Wednesday morning, he said they didn't lose that many poles, but downed tree limbs caused problems.

"It takes so much longer because you can't really turn on long sections of line because there are so many issues within each mile," Kirby said.

David City Mayor Alan Zavodny said this was the worst ice storm he's seen in his lifetime.

"We're going to have some long term devastating effects from the trees that we're going to lose. Most of the town had some damage on every piece of property," Zavodny said.

Zavodny said he began the steps for a disaster declaration in the morning of Nov. 11.

"I think we will get some aid," Zavodny said. "And, we are very grateful to those communities that came to help in the form of mutual aid."

David City, Prague and Brainard have city crews separate from the power district that maintain their lines. Elsewhere in Butler County, the power district's 14 linemen are responsible for the upkeep of nearly 1,700 miles of line.

Meanwhile, David City's six linemen received mutual aid from the communities of Holdrege, Auburn, Curtis and Cozad.

"I hope they never experience something like this, but if they do, I hope their first call is to us," Zavodny said. "Because we'll be there to help them."

When Kirby spoke to the Banner-Press on Nov. 11, he said crews might still be working that Friday, Nov. 13, to bring individuals back online elsewhere in the county.

"There are customers that have a broken meter pole or a broken transformer pole and, right now, those types of services have to wait until towards the end. We try to get all the distribution (lines) on and get as many groups and large bunches of customers on," Kirby said.

Once that's done, the linemen can start tending to individual customers suffering from more major problems.

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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