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4/17/2014 12:34:00 PM
More than 6,000 WPS customers without power this morning
April snowstorm lays down 16 inches of wet, heavy snow
Working their way down the sidewalk on the Island of Minocqua, this man who was blowing snow discovered it was not an easy task this morning after Mother Nature dumped about 16 inches of snow overnight.
Dean Hall photograph
Working their way down the sidewalk on the Island of Minocqua, this man who was blowing snow discovered it was not an easy task this morning after Mother Nature dumped about 16 inches of snow overnight.

Dean Hall photograph

Raymond T. Rivard
Features Editor

Update: As of 5:30 p.m., the number of customers affected by power outages had dropped to 3 ...

More than 6,000 Wisconsin Public Service customers were without power across the Northwoods this morning because of the wet, heavy dumping of April snow.

According to the WPS website that tracks the number of outages across their service area, at 12:30 p.m. today there were 4,860 customers affected by outages that stretched from Presque Isle in the north to Merrill in the south.

The hardest-hit area over night, according to Leah Van Zile, WPS community relations leader, was the greater Lakeland area.

However, by midday it was the Eagle River area that was the last to be addressed by WPS crews. Around noon, there were still about 1,500 customers reporting no power.

Around that same time and closer to home, Arbor Vitae had 143 without, Minocqua had 445, Hazelhurst had 118, St. Germain had 476, and Woodruff just 33.

As crews continued to work through the morning and into early Thursday afternoon, the number of those without power was declining significantly.

Van Zile said that throughout the day, there were close to 100 WPS employees working the repairs - that included linemen from out of the Minocqua and Tomahawk areas.

As to the main causes for the outages, Van Zile said it was either tree branches that were falling onto power lines or branches that had drooped and come into contact with the lines, causing damage to the line and shutting down power to specific areas.

Van Zile also said that judging by the speed of the crews working in the field, full restoration for all customers in the area should be completed by early Thursday evening.

She also described the process for restoring power: "Customers who think that we may not be restoring fast enough, they should understand that safety is our number one priority - for the public and for our crews."

To do that, specific protocol and procedures need to be followed when crews approach an area needing repair. They need to be sure that a thorough review of the area is completed, that equipment is handled correctly and that all other procedures are completed before starting repairs. 

Many times that means that WPS workers have to walk a stretch of line, many times located in remote locations. Sometimes the workers are walking through knee-deep or even deeper areas of snow, which can take some time and effort by the worker.

Once the area is cleared and safe to work in, then the repairs begin.

"We start at one end [of the line] to identify the problem and then patrol the lines for issues. It could be a tree on a line or it could be a wire damaged by a branch. Whatever the issue is, it takes some time to make those determinations.

Van Zile also said that WPS relies on customers to call outages into the office. That way they can (by the numbers of calls in a specific area) determine how many customers may be affected. "When people call it can help us determine the scope of the problem."

To report an outage, visit https://accel.wisconsinpublicservice.com/outagemanagement/reporting/ReportOutageHome.aspx and follow the online instruction; or call 800-450-7240.

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