(Shaun Friedrichsen, Publisher)
Although in the scheme of things the thunderstorm on Thursday was relatively light, it kept crews from Fairbury Light and Water and Diller Fire and Rescue busy as they worked to restore power to several parts of the county.
Emergency Manager for Jefferson and Saline County John McKee explained that the wind and the rain produced by the storm were a concern. However, so far, he has not received any reports of major damage from people in the county.
“The power company had some outages, and I’m sure Norris had some too, though I haven’t heard anything,” said McKee. “We had rain and wind mostly. I think we had some gusts that very easily approached 60 miles per hour, or more. Mostly the northern part of Jefferson County and the southern part of Saline got hit the hardest with the wind.
“The rain amounts were good, in some parts of the county there was over an inch of rain,” McKee continued. “We escaped the hail. It helps that we were hot, because it kept the air warm enough that the hail being produced by those storms were melting before they hit the ground.”
Although he has not received any reports of major damage, he encourages people to reach out to him if there are areas that have been badly damaged.
“If there’s considerable damage, call our office,” said McKee. “It gives us an idea of some areas we could have missed with damage assessment. It does help knowing about buildings severely destroyed or damaged. The storm found the weaker trees and branches, so I know there were quite a few limbs down. Some of them brought down power lines with them.”
Power lines being brought down by the storm was the source of a small fire north of Harbine. Fire Chief of Diller Fire and Rescue Jeff Nelson explained that they received a report about the fire at approximately 7:54 p.m.
Nelson was not at the scene, but stated that with the rain, the fire was likely easy to get under control. For safety reasons, members of Diller Fire and Rescue remained at the scene until a crew from Fairbury Light and Water was able to reach the lines and repair them.
(Photo Credit: Rachel Bender, Jason and Dave Rogers, Mike Bloom, Shaun Friedrichsen)
Fairbury Light and Water remained busy throughout the night as they worked to repair down power lines. Electrical Line Superintendent Jim Morehead explained that currently, everything is back online.
“Right now we have everybody back on, and that happened pretty quick last night,” said Morehead. “At 11 o’clock we we’re sending everybody home, roughly. We had almost all of our problems taken care of until morning. We did have one pole snap, and we replaced it. The town of Jansen has a pole there that was just a secondary one that we got replaced this morning. We had some high winds take a big tree down north of Harbine, and that tore a three phase wire down, tore all three of them (which was the cause of the fire). There was another line down in Endicott that we worked on too.”
He explained that they will continue working on ensuring the lines are intact and that the storm did not affect anything else. He noted that most of the problems were secondary, with falling tree limbs tearing lines off of houses.
“We actually came through it pretty good,” Morehead said. “We’ve got 180 miles worth of rural line. So, we take care of a pretty good little area from Gilead all the way over to Ellis, down to Steele City and Reynolds. We’ve got quite a bit of roll out there.”
Morehead and McKee both emphasized that it is important for people to stay safe in these situations. They encouraged people to stay inside and let the professionals work on downed lines.
“Make a phone call and try to stay safe in the house,” said Morehead. “You don’t really see what’s out in your yard very easy. You assume nothing’s there, but it can be. A tree could have thrown lines all the way over by your house. If they’re out of power, it’s best that we get there first. You don’t want to touch wires because it can still be energized.”
Morehead explained that there is always someone available at the power plant, and that people should call them if they experience any outages.
“It might be a busy line, like I’m sure last night (Thursday) was, but they just have to keep trying,” Morehead said. “We’re trying for public safety, and I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”