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Vogt's Notes: Life without power

Have you ever considered life without electricity? We've all experienced the occasional power outage that lasts for several minutes or even a few hours. But after the July 12 windstorm toppled trees and tangled power lines, many residents went up...

Have you ever considered life without electricity?

We've all experienced the occasional power outage that lasts for several minutes or even a few hours. But after the July 12 windstorm toppled trees and tangled power lines, many residents went up to a week without power.

My family lost power for four days. I can't tell you how many times I walked into a room and flipped the light switch out of habit, fully aware that the light wouldn't turn on, yet momentarily surprised nonetheless.

I quickly learned that, really, I could live without the television. I rather enjoyed that. I missed the radio. We functioned in the darkness. We cooked dinner on the outdoor grill. Luckily, good friends provided generators to keep our refrigerator and freezer running.

What I really missed was water. I like brushing my teeth and washing my face in my bathroom. I like rinsing my dishes in the kitchen sink. I can't stand not having my daily shower. And I like to flush.

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I have to admit, it was interesting to find a somewhat new routine, a new normal, after a couple days without power.

But it was so great when that power came back on.

The return of our power that Thursday after the storm was the result of hard work by a lot of people, including Minnesota Power and other utility and municipal crews.

On Aug. 5, Minnesota Power hosted a community picnic in Nisswa to celebrate that hard work.

"It was an opportunity for folks heavily affected and without power for a long time to meet line workers," said Kelley Eldien, Minnesota Power senior communications specialist in Duluth.

At the height of the July power outage, over 100 Minnesota Power employees as well as teams from other utility companies in the state helped to replace nearly 300 power poles to restore power, Eldien said.

Carl Thesing, line crew supervisor for the Pine River, Nisswa, Crosby and Park Rapids areas, said the July outage was definitely the worst Minnesota Power has seen in the lakes area. Thesing remarked how through all the work to clear tree debris and downed power lines and poles, and then to erect new poles and restore power, there were no motor vehicle or personal injury accidents.

People were understanding, as well, he said. Crews worked around the clock the first 24 hours after the storm, and then for a week worked 16 hours followed by eight hours off. Mutual assistance from other utilities meant 200 linemen were on duty. Cragun's Resort hosted crews.

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"It was an extraordinary storm - the worst or one of the worst in company history," said Al Hodnik, chairman, president and CEO of Minnesota Power in Duluth. "The fabric of the community was bent, but not broken; tattered, but not ripped or shredded."

Hodnik, who attended the community picnic, said it was a celebration of an extraordinary week many will never forget. While there surely were unhappy people along the way, he said the company had an overwhelming feeling of support, encouragement and praise, as evidenced by social media posts the company compiled into a booklet that documents each day after the storm. A bond was formed as everyone endured a shared experience, he said.

Hodnik rightly said people gain a greater appreciation for power after it's been out for awhile.

"It's a somewhat taken-for-granted feature in our life. It's on all the time," he said.

As one who lived without power for four days, count me in as someone with a new appreciation for utility line crews.

Opinion by Nancy Vogt
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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