AUDIO: Stearns Electric recovers from storm damage

AUDIO: Stearns Electric recovers from storm damage Click to Enlarge Photo:

Jul 23, 2013 at 10:04 am

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) It's been just over a month since strong thunderstorm winds brought down trees and power lines in the St. Cloud area.

At its peak, there were 14,000 Stearns Electric customers without power.

District Manager Dave Gruenes says the storm caused an estimated $280,000 damage to their power grid--mostly from broken power poles and tree branches taking down power lines.

So why not bury those power lines underground? Gruenes tells KNSI News they're doing a lot of that already. Stearns Electric has about 4,300 miles of line. About 40 percent of that is underground.

He says in new development areas, lines are placed underground. But there are drawbacks. He says when you "have an outage in the dead of winter, and there's five feet of frost, it can pose a hardship. Or gophers or other animals chewing through underground lines. There are pros and cons."

Gruenes says another key is tree maintenance--making sure branches aren't growing into power lines.

He says Stearns Electric spends "well over $1 million a year out of a $50 million budget trimming trees." If President Obama grants a disaster declaration due to storm damage, FEMA would reimburse the co-op up to 75-percent of the cost of making repairs.

Gruenes on moving power lines underground

Gruenes says burying power lines has its pros and cons

Gruenes says tree trimming is a key component

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