Power trickles on
FAIRMOUNT, N.D. - Beverly Adolf, 73, has been busy since the lights went out here Monday morning. She's read by the glow of her kerosene lamp, rigged a candle to heat her coffee and listened to old country music tapes with her dog, Kiki. She's ev...
FAIRMOUNT, N.D. - Beverly Adolf, 73, has been busy since the lights went out here Monday morning.
She's read by the glow of her kerosene lamp, rigged a candle to heat her coffee and listened to old country music tapes with her dog, Kiki. She's even had a sleepover - a neighbor whose house went cold in the blackout.
"I haven't been out since I came from church Sunday," Adolf said, a propane heater hissing near her feet. "That's when the ice started."
Adolf's town, 60 miles south of Fargo, will be one of the last to regain power knocked out by the blizzard earlier this week. Mayor Jon Nelk guessed about a quarter of his 400 residents have left town during the blackout, an outage that doesn't appear likely to end until Sunday.
Those who stayed have kept warm using generators, wood stoves or propane tanks. In the fire hall, pages of notes litter a table where volunteers try to stay ahead of the town's needs.
Susan Ruhl worked on a pen-drawn grid with names of homeowners who had one of the 14 generators circulating throughout the community. The schedule was designed to keep each house heated only enough so its pipes wouldn't freeze.
"That's our biggest worry - broken water lines," said Terry Steffens, a volunteer firefighter.
Every few hours the local electricians (a father and son team, or their competitor - also a relative) moved a generator from one home to another. Even people who left town for the week got the service to their homes. Nelk guessed close to 100 homes received such help since Monday.
Farmers helped out by sharing their generators, and volunteers are checking on homes to make sure elderly residents have enough fuel and heat.
"The whole community is banding together," Nelk said.
Elsewhere in the region, the number of people without power dropped dramatically as crews continued to repair downed lines.
Otter Tail Power Co., which serves Fairmount, made the biggest strides Wednesday. It started the day reporting 7,500 customers without power and reduced the number to about 1,000 late in the day.
In Fargo-Moorhead, the threat of rolling blackouts passed when workers restored enough transmission lines to stabilize the grid, said Bonnie Lund, an Xcel Energy spokeswoman. Residents were told they no longer needed to drastically conserve energy.
Meanwhile, Gov. John Hoeven traveled to Fairmount, Hankinson and Lidgerwood to survey damage and take requests. Maj. Gen. Mike Haugen of the National Guard accompanied the governor.
In Fairmont, Nelk asked for more generators (the Guard sent five on Tuesday), and sand trucks and plows to improve his streets. Within two hours, three trucks from the Department of Transportation were widening and sanding the roads of Fairmount.
Outside, Chad Cossette and Zach Steffens, both 12, hauled their plastic sleds up one of the town's larger snow piles. The friends said they miss TV and video games, but they're enjoying their week off.
"We can go out and play - no homework," Cossette said. "I want it to stay like this."
A block away, a few residents lingered inside the community center. About 50 people stayed their Monday night, but most have since found a source of heat or moved out of town.
Vincent Humble, 62, is one of the few who remain. His first night at the shelter he played pinochle until 7 a.m. By Wednesday, his face showed several days of stubble, as did the faces of most other men in town.
"I'm going to appreciate my apartment when I get back to it," Humble said.
The lack of stove-cooked meals, TV shows and warm baths was a minor discomfort compared to the invisible danger that came with the blackout.
On Wednesday morning, two children, ages 9 and 14, became sick from carbon monoxide poisoning, said Gary Ruhl, chief sheriff's deputy for Richland County and a Fairmount resident. A generator in their garage released the fumes, and by morning the kids were vomiting, flushed and confused. They needed oxygen but appeared to recover, Ruhl said.
He urged people to crack a window; it could save their lives.
"Go to sleep and that will be the end of it," he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538