Front Range co-ops mopping up after devastating floods

Many roads in United Power’s service area were heavily impacted by flood waters, including this damage to Colorado Roads 34 and 17.

Many roads in United Power’s service area were heavily impacted by flood waters, including this damage to Colorado Roads 34 and 17.

Colorado’s devastating and deadly (six fatalities reported to date) floods during the past week have presented some significant challenges to line crews of Tri-State members Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins), United Power (Brighton) and to a lesser extent, Morgan County REA (Fort Morgan), in their efforts to repair their systems and restore electric service to their member-consumers.

The deluge of record-breaking rainfall not only damaged or destroyed many homes and businesses across Colorado’s Front Range, but it also eroded or completely washed away scores of roadways and bridges that will make access to some member service areas difficult for months to come.

“We have had co-op and contract line crews working around the clock to restore service to our most impacted areas, which includes Left Hand Canyon and residences outside of the town of Lyons,” said Jeff Wadsworth, assistant CEO for Poudre Valley REA.

“Right now we have about 330 consumers without power and we hope to restore service to many of them in the next week. Unfortunately, about 200 of those services will not be restored until roads are repaired to allow our crews access to those areas,” Wadsworth said.

One of United Power’s submerged utility cabinets is teathered by cables. The co-op continues to assess damage as flood waters recede.

One of United Power’s submerged utility cabinets is teathered by cables. The co-op continues to assess damage as flood waters recede.

United Power also has about 300 consumers that are currently without power. Laurel Eller, communications specialist for the electric co-op, said the most heavily impacted areas are near the confluence of I-25 and Colo. Highway 119, as well as the Firestone and Frederick areas.

“Our crews continue to assess the damage while out in the field,” said Troy Whitmore, director of external affairs for United. “We estimate that four or five pieces of switchgear are still under water and it is not known how much of that equipment will be salvageable,” he said.

United also reported that an estimated 50 to 70 distribution poles are down or heavily damaged by the flood waters.

“County officials are estimating three months or more for road repairs in certain places, so access and travel time will continue to impact our operations and power restoration for months to come,” Whitmore explained.

AJ’s Tavern in the town of Goodrich was awash earlier this week. This business is served by Morgan County REA.

AJ’s Tavern in the town of Goodrich was awash earlier this week. This business is served by Morgan County REA.

Morgan County REA was by far the least impacted co-op in the flood zone. “Of the 15 river crossings in our service territory, only two areas caused outages,” said Geoff Baumgartner, communications specialist for the co-op.

Rising water in the Goodrich area prompted line crews to de-energize some equipment, impacting about 20 meters. Power was restored two days later on Sept. 16. The second outage – impacting about 150 meters – on Sept. 15 north of Brush, was restored the next day, according to Baumgartner.

  • Click here to view more flood damage photos in United Power’s service territory.

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