Tri-State employees brave brutal cold to keep the lights on — and win

Tri-State Pueblo-based linemen Reid Kelley (left) and Walter Greene work on a frosted structure on the Axil Basin to Hayden 138-kV line.

Tri-State Pueblo-based linemen Reid Kelley (left) and Walter Greene work on a frosted structure on the Axil Basin to Hayden 138-kV line.

The unofficial creed of the U.S. Postal Service claims that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will prevent the mail from being delivered. Why “bitter cold” didn’t make the list is unclear, but any motto drafted for Tri-State employees who must venture outdoors to help keep the lights on would certainly describe their willingness to brave cruel winter weather.

During the recent brutal cold spell – during which temperatures around the association’s service territory plummeted to depths such as 2 below (Chama, N.M.), 12 below (Riverton, Wyo.), 16 below (Henry, Neb.) and even 36 below (Craig, Colo.) – no components of the Tri-State system experienced weather-related outages.

This was thanks, in part, to the hardy men and women who were undaunted by the conditions and continued to perform their operations and maintenance roles at the company’s generating plants, mining properties and transmission facilities.

“With more than a foot of snow and wind that helped drop the temperatures to 36 below zero in the area, our staff braved it all to keep the lights on,” noted Craig Station plant manager Rick Johnson.

Craig Station plant maintenance supervisor Dan Daugherty (left) and stores supervisor Ty Wilson inspect propane tanks during the recent below freezing weather.

Craig Station plant maintenance supervisor Dan Daugherty (left) and stores supervisor Ty Wilson inspect propane tanks during the recent below freezing weather.

“Coal continued to be delivered from Colowyo Mine and Trapper Mine, our coal handling department continued to unload the coal and supply it to the operating units and our the plant roads were kept passable. Crews worked round-the-clock operating the station and keeping supplemental heat going in our buildings. I am proud to be associated with such a great team at Craig Station,” Johnson reported.

Colowyo Mine manager Chris McCourt echoed those comments from his frigid post 25 miles to the southwest. “Colowyo employees have worked diligently and safely during these extreme conditions to keep operations at the mine in full production,” he said. McCourt also pointed out that, while snow and cold present certain challenges, last week’s weather was in some ways preferable to working during the spring melt, when flowing water and muddy landscapes can be even more hazardous.

Tri-State linemen Noah Kenney (left) and Rob Manweiller were among numerous Tri-State and Colowyo employees who were forced to battle brutal winter conditions over the past week.

Tri-State linemen Noah Kenney (left) and Rob Manweiller were among numerous Tri-State and Colowyo employees who were forced to battle brutal winter conditions over the past week.

Of course, the mining of coal and generation of electricity are of little use without an operating transmission system — and Tri-State’s maintenance personnel are continually outdoors battling the elements to keep power lines and substations in working condition.

Mac Fellin, transmission maintenance manager based in Montrose, Colo., said his crews performed well during last week’s cold. “They are a dedicated bunch and work hard to complete routine and corrective maintenance on all of our substation, transmission line and telecom facilities to ensure system reliability for our member system owners,” Fellin explained. “Even when the winter weather hits like this past week, with the snow and extreme cold temperatures, our maintenance personnel are out there getting the job done.”

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