Power slowly coming back for North Dakotans after blizzard

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota utility said Thursday that it has restored power to more than half of the 19,000 households knocked offline by a devastating weekend blizzard.

Many of those who remained in the dark were making do with generators, like Carla Jean Falcon-Grile and Phillip Grile. The couple, who live near Williston in the heart of the state’s oil patch, have relied on theirs to run their TV and a heater that goes in their bedroom at night to keep them warm.

“We use lanterns at night to find our way to the bathroom,” Carla said.

Montana-Dakota Utilities spokesman Mark Hanson said power was restored Wednesday night to Crosby, which has a population of 1,100 and was one of the largest towns in the storm path. That left seven towns still in the dark, with three expected to go online by Friday morning and one by Sunday. Three towns accounting for about 205 customers — Zahl, Appem and Hanks — may not get power until May 6, Hanson said.

“Those are lines that ran east-west, where he had the biggest issues because of the wind,” Hanson said. “Those 6 miles are … they’re bad. In one direction going 6 miles, there are 33 poles down and 58 broken arms. It’s not the easiest terrain to get around in and there are a lot of wet potholes.”

Hanson said the damage from the storm that included a mixture of snow, rain, ice and strong winds is unprecedented in the nearly 100-year history of the utility.

The high price of gas has made it more difficult to keep generators running. The Griles have been conserving some power by grilling outside. Falcon-Grile said she immediately donated meat and other food from a large freezer “before anything went bad.”

Falcon-Grile said they did get water service on Tuesday, but she has heard power might not be restored until next week.

“We are praying it comes on soon,” she said.

Falcon-Grile, who has lived in North Dakota for 53 years, said she hasn’t seen the snow that high since she and her husband moved into their house seven years ago.

They’re not the only ones gutting it out at home. Red Cross spokesman Shelby Pudwill said six shelters were originally set up in northwestern North Dakota but haven’t seen much traffic.

“It was pretty hectic at first,” Pudwill said. “But people really come together in times like this and there hasn’t been a huge need for our support.”