Equipment failure at the Xcel Energy Coon Valley substation left many people without power on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Equipment failure was to blame for a power outage that affected 1,115 Xcel Energy electric customers spread across the communities of Chaseburg, Coon Valley, Viroqua and Westby on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Following a series of power surges, the lights went out for several hours from 10:40 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

According to Liz Wolf Green, a senior communications consultant for Xcel Energy, equipment failure at the Coon Valley substation affected customers in the villages of Coon Valley and Chaseburg, along with rural customers in Chaseburg, Coon Valley and Westby. Customers in the cities of Westby and Viroqua were not impacted by the power outage.

Spring primary poll workers in the villages of Coon Valley and Chaseburg faced a challenge after an extended power outage on Tuesday, lasted past the life of the battery back-up on the electronic voting machines. According to Renita Williamson, the Coon Valley village clerk, the voting machine came back on when the power was restored around 3 p.m.

“Voter turnout was light, so everything worked out fine. The election workers earned their pay and were a little chilled working without heat in the building. Thankfully, it was a nice day outside so they didn’t get too cold,” Williamson said.

The power outage led to a variety of other problems in the community as factories, banks and other businesses were forced to close during the village-wide outage.

Coon Valley Police Chief Jay Engelhart and the municipal employees drove to La Crosse to get fuel after the gas pumps at Kwik Trip were non-operational. Village utility workers connected generators to operate the two sewer lift stations and were grateful when power was restored before they had to add a generator to the village water well.

The Vernon County Sheriff’s Department rerouted dispatch calls to other surrounding radio towers after the Coon tower was down during the brownout.

The village of Coon Valley was also in the middle of its audit, but auditors packed up and called it a day early Tuesday afternoon after the power failed to be restored. They returned to the process on Wednesday.

“The telephones rang steady in the office as residents with residents wanting to know when the power would be restored,” Williamson said.

Xcel Energy crews were extremely busy last week restoring power in wake of a severe winter storm

that hit the Midwest hard on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 20-21.

By Friday morning, Feb. 21, crews had restored nearly 49,000 customers in Wisconsin and Minnesota, who lost power due to the severe winter storm on Thursday. Approximately 58,000 customers were affected since weather conditions began deteriorating Thursday evening. Freezing rain, sleet and heavy, wet snow, combined with high winds, snapped trees branches and downed power lines as the storm moved through the region. Crews worked throughout the night, but were hampered by difficult weather conditions and poor roads. In some rural areas of western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota, roads were impassable and in some cases even closed.

Xcel Energy cautions customers during inclement weather situations to stay away from downed power lines and report their location at 1-800-895-4999.

“All downed power lines, even if they’re not moving or sparking, are dangerous and should never be approached,” Green said.

In addition, natural gas customers are urged to keep their gas meters free of ice and snow to prevent the potential for a dangerous natural gas pressure buildup in their homes and businesses. To report an outage customers are asked to call Xcel Energy’s outage line 1-800-895-1999. If natural gas customers smell natural gas in their homes or place of work, they should leave immediately and call 1-800-895-2999.


Westby Times editor

Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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