A Memorial Day severe thunderstorm with winds gusts up to 66 mph swept through the Pine City and surrounding area Monday evening and left most of the area without power. 

Power was shut off to over 11,000 residents in the East Central Energy coverage area. 

The storm caused damage to trees, structures, and boats/pontoons/docks on the lake. Tree services were out immediately after the storm to clear blocked roads and driveways from downed trees. 

ECE crews were out all night to restore power with some still out of power the morning of Tuesday, May 31. As of Tuesday at 11 a.m., Andy Olson, ECE vice president COO and incident commander, said that there were still 313 outages. 

“We currently have 313 outages impacting 3,300 members,” said Olson. “At our highest point, around 11,000 members were without power. Our system had at least 22 broken poles and countless trees/limbs on lines. As our crews cycle out for some much-needed sleep, we are thankful for the additional help of Dakota Electric Association, Polk-Burnett Electric and Skyline Utility Construction employees.” 

He added that during times of crisis, ECE has the desire and ability to pull together like none other. “We want to stress that nothing is more important than working safely. Throughout the restoration process, we ask that employees speak up when fatigued, take time to do each job properly and thoroughly, and remember that your family needs you to come home safe (if a little tired). Our members are a priority, but safety is THE priority without compromise.”

Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson noted that though there were a lot of trees down and many structures impacted, the Sheriff’s Office did not have any significant injuries reported. 

“We are just starting the preliminary damage assessment and will be reporting to the state,” said Nelson. “We are asking anyone that has building damage to reach out to Denise from our Emergency Management Office. Please send a text to (320) 438-0309 with your name and address. This will help ensure we know about any issues and can document them well.” He added that this may also help secure federal or state disaster funding. 

“I would be remiss if I didn't mention the outstanding job the county highway department and fire departments did in their response,” added Nelson. 

The Pine County Highway Department was out until 4 a.m. Tuesday morning clearing trees, much of which was in the Hinckley area. Pine County engineer, Mark LeBrun, said that the highway department couldn’t get to all the trees since some of them were downed with power lines. He said most of the time has been spent clearing the roads, but many trees are still in the ditches, and that clean-up will come in the near future. “The public can let us know if there is a tree down … we don’t know unless someone calls us,” he added.


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