Calm during the storm

MARSHALL -The severe weather that’s walloped Minnesota isn’t done yet. And as damage mounted up along the southern edge of the state on Wednesday, Marshall officials found themselves having to strike a balance between helping other communities and staying prepared for more storms.

In an emergency meeting, members of the Marshall City Council passed a mutual aid agreement for communities asking for assistance after Tuesday night’s ice storms. However, city officials noted that, depending on local needs, that help might not come right away. At the same time, area emergency responders and electric line crews were mobilizing to help people left without electricity.

At the emergency council meeting, Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said the city had received a request from the city of Worthington to assist with removing fallen trees. Martig said the city had drafted a mutual aid agreement in 2010, which could be revised to offer temporary assistance to Worthington. However, Martig and Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said the city may want to consider further aid requests on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the severity of coming storms in Marshall, it’s possible that responders will be needed here, or be unable to leave right away, they said.

Council members unanimously approved the mutual aid agreement.

Marshall was spared the worst of Tuesday night’s severe weather, which included freezing rain, sleet and snow. The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls reported ice accumulations of .9 inches in Murray and Nobles counties by Wednesday morning.

“We’ve been fortunate so far,” said Tim O’Leary of Lyon-Lincoln Electric. As of Wednesday afternoon, he said, the electric cooperative had only two outages. “We have been able to send line workers to the south.”

Ice and wind pose a threat to above-ground power lines, O’Leary said. Under the right conditions, they can cause the lines to “gallop” up and down and knock over transmission poles.

The combination of ice, wind and heavy snow felled trees and power lines to the south of Lyon County. Nobles Cooperative Electric, which has offices in both Worthington and Slayton, said lines in Nobles County were hit especially hard by the storm. More than 100 transmission poles were down between Worthington and Adrian alone, said Tracey Haberman of NCE. Haberman said there were some isolated power outages in Murray County near Lake Shetek, but if more ice and snow came to the area on Wednesday night, the number of outages would grow.

NCE has requested assistance from neighboring electric cooperatives like Lyon-Lincoln Electric and Legacy Construction.

“We really want people to make sure, if they see any downed lines, to stay away and to report them,” Haberman said.

Xcel Energy’s online outage map reported some outages affecting customers in the Tracy and Currie areas on Wednesday.

A news release from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said power outages, downed lines and trees were widespread throughout Nobles, Cottonwood, Murray and Rock counties. In Luverne, the National Guard Armory was opened to house 35 juveniles from a nearby facility. A hospital in Nobles County and a nursing home in Hills were both running on generator power, HSEM said.

In Marshall, local emergency responders were joining the efforts to help people stranded by the storms. Members of the Marshall Fire Department, Marshall Police and the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department helped load blankets and cots onto a trailer bound for Rock County. Lyon County Emergency Manager Tammy VanOverbeke said the supplies were part of a cache kept for regional emergencies.

Unfortunately, the severe weather isn’t over yet for the region. A winter storm warning will remain in effect until 1 p.m. today, the National Weather Service said. Freezing rain and heavy, wet snow were predicted to continue through Wednesday night and this morning, putting more stress on trees and power lines.