Many Remain Without Power Following Windstorm

Some Flathead Electric members might not have power restored until Thursday

By Maggie Dresser
A downed tree is tangled in a power line in Kalispell after a powerful thunderstorm swept across the Flathead Valley on May 31, 2020, causing widespread power outages. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

After a significant windstorm ravaged the Flathead Valley on Sunday morning, leaving nearly 37,000 members without power at its peak, the Flathead Electric Cooperative (FEC) was still working to restore power to about 9,000 members on Monday morning.

“This is the most significant outage that we’ve ever experienced,” FEC Public Relations Officer Wendy Ostrom Price said.

As of Monday morning at 10:45 a.m., homes west of Whitefish and south along U.S. Highway 93 and many homes in West Glacier, Columbia Falls, West Kalispell, West Shore, Rollins, Lakeside, Evergreen, Helena Flats, the Woodland area of downtown Kalispell, Ferndale, Swan Lake, and Echo Lake were still without power.

Crews responded to outages in Happy Valley and Rollins on Monday afternoon, but Ostrom Price says they are encountering so much damage on the way that it’s been difficult to accurately advise residents when the power will be restored.

A lineman reported more than 50 downed trees in a two mile-stretch along U.S. Highway 83 near Echo Lake. More than half of FEC’s members lost power within the 5,000 miles of line in its system.

With assistance from outside crews from Missoula, Helena and Lincoln, FEC hopes to “tackle the larger outages in the main areas hit,” and crews plan to restore power to smaller outages by Tuesday or Wednesday.

“We have these pockets that are impacting maybe one or two people,” Ostrom Price said. “We have to restore the largest areas and unfortunately there will be people without power going into maybe Tuesday, Wednesday and maybe even Thursday. We want to be very transparent about this. This is the reality of living in a heavily wooded area with extreme weather.”

The storm on Sunday started at about 8:20 a.m. and lasted till 8:30 a.m., Ostrom Price said. “It was over 69 miles per hour, which is tornado-like speed,” she said. “That’s actually how the outcome was, as if a tornado ripped through. It was so fast but so furious.”

FEC reminds people to never touch, go near or drive over a downed power line, even if it doesn’t appear to be hot, never try to remove trees from power lines and report all emergencies to 911.

To report an outage, call the FEC outage line at (406) 751-4449.

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