Power restored to homes affected by extreme cold; utilties going full out to meet demand

January 30, 2019

Utility crews worked in numbing cold to restore power to thousands of electric customers in southern Wisconsin Wednesday morning, on one of the coldest days on record.

Alliant Energy had almost 6,000 customers without power in the Mineral Point and Boscobel areas west of Madison and in the Twin Lakes area in southeast Wisconsin earlier this morning, but everyone had power as of 10 a.m.

Alliant Energy spokeswoman Annemarie Newman said the outages were weather related. Temperatures dropped to 20 below or worse throughout Wisconsin.

“Nothing is immune from extreme cold,” Newman said.

She added that power plants were running “all out” to meet the demand, and demand for natural gas also was up.

“Usage is up everywhere,” Newman said. “We’re meeting it and we aren’t seeing any problems.”

Madison Gas and Electric reported about 750 customers lost power in an area from Fitchburg east to Lake Waubesa because of a downed power line likely caused by weather, and about 400 people in McFarland lost power after a car hit a power pole.

MGE customers also had power restored by mid-morning.

Spokesman Steven Schultz said crews were working staggered shifts instead of being on call, so crews can respond immediately 24 hours a day during the frigid weather.

Routine outdoor work was put on hold.

“It’s just too cold,” Schultz said.

The mind-numbing cold prompted more closings Wednesday, including all branches of the Madison Public Library.

The libraries will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, and should resume regular hours on Friday.

Madison firefighters had to brave the bitter cold early in the morning to fight a house fire called in around 3 a.m. in the 4800 block of Buckeye Road.

The resident of the single-family home was able to get out okay, along with two cats.

The home was heavily damaged, but the cause of the fire was not known. No injuries were reported.

The State Patrol didn’t have any major crashes to report Wednesday morning, but there were several disabled vehicles along major highways.

Officials are warning drivers to watch for black ice on pavement, since even a small amount of snow blowing onto roads can melt when vehicle exhaust or sunlight heats surfaces just enough, before the winds refreeze the moisture.

“Motorists should be especially cautious at traditional black ice trouble spots, such as underpasses, within the shade of trees, at intersections and on interchange ramps,” the State Patrol said.

If venturing out in the bitter cold, know what the current road conditions are by going to the state highway travel map, keep a full gas tank, have an emergency kit in the car, extra layers of winter clothing, and tell others of your route and when you expect to get there.

And, there is light at the end of the frigid tunnel.

We should see one more day of below zero temperatures on Thursday, before a warming trend begins on Friday, with highs reaching into the 40s on Sunday and Monday.