A malevolent storm struck Ottawa Monday night, ripping off tree limbs and blacking out large swaths of the community. However, thanks to quick action by city utility crews, most of the grid was restored shortly before sunrise.
The storm swept through shortly after midnight, and according to Dennis Tharp, City of Ottawa utilities director, the scale of this latest tempest hasn’t been seen in over a decade.
“It was comparable to the 2003 ice storm,” Tharp said Wednesday. “Initially, six of our 12 circuits [were] down.”
Tharp said Ottawa’s National Weather Service observation post recorded winds in excess of 70 mph.
“For around here, that’s big,” he said.
After the brunt of the storm had passed, crews got right to work.
“With the sheer number of problems that were reported, and limbs on lines — the guys worked about 16 hours straight,” Tharp said. “I know in a lot of people’s minds it’s never fast enough, but the storm rolled around midnight or 1 o’clock, and by 5 a.m., they had pretty much everybody back on. That’s stellar work, and I think we need to brag on them.”
Crews initially focused on quickly restoring power, and now are involved in cleanup and repair work.
“Most of the problems were rectified right after the storm. I think we had about three [power line] poles broken, and that does take a little bit of time to rebuild,” Tharp said Wednesday. “They will spend all day today going back and getting limbs off of lines ... then we’ve probably got a couple more days doing some line stretching.”
While reflecting on the storm’s aftermath, Tharp lauded the advantages of having a municipal utilities system.
“We have people that can respond quickly,” he said. “If we would’ve been on an IOU system, a KCPL system or something like that, it could’ve been days. In fact, it was for Baldwin [City]. Baldwin just got back on early [Wednesday] morning. They had to run their generators to cover the town for about a day and a half.”