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Weathering the Storm: NIPCO’s Response to Recent Tornadoes

In the wake of severe storms that swept through Iowa late afternoon and early evening on April 26th, NIPCO members faced significant challenges, with over 500 reported electric service outages in the southern portion of NIPCO’s 69kV (kilovolt) transmission system by Friday evening. The National Weather Service recorded at least 19 tornadoes in Iowa during the onslaught, causing substantial damage to the region’s homes, farms, and communities, including NIPCO’s transmission infrastructure.

Photo of a wooden electric structure lays down in a farm field.
Near Neola, a NIPCO transmission "H" structure is flattened by tornadic winds on April 26, 2024.

NIPCO Class A Members Harrison County REC and Nishnabotna Valley REC serve the hardest-hit areas with WIPCO receiving moderate damage near the town of Manilla. The NIPCO transmission infrastructure that serves Harrison County REC members with power sourced by the Neola Substation near Neola, Iowa, was of particular concern. Fortunately, Harrison County REC’s distribution lines received minimal damage, and the REC could temporarily re-route power, allowing NIPCO to de-energize the impacted distribution line sections to perform repairs. Initial reports revealed six downed or leaning structures on NIPCO’s Neola Tap line that serves Harrison County REC’s distribution lines, with five repaired by NIPCO crews Friday night into Saturday.

A nighttime photo of a wooden transmission pole leaning near to the ground with electric wires attached.
One of NIPCO's "wishbone"-style transmission structures leans near the ground on the J7-J11 Tap line.

Once Neola’s transmission lines were stabilized, efforts focused on damage near Harlan, Iowa, on NIPCO’s J7-J11 transmission line. This 69kV line received substantial damage from a tornado estimated to be one-half mile wide, with some high-voltage power lines laying across roads and wishbone and H-structures flattened in open fields. The J7-J11 line suffered nine downed structures in total, necessitating repair efforts that would take more time.

As luck would have it, no NIPCO substations sustained heavy damage. Thanks to NIPCO’s redundant system (a grid design that “loops” transmission lines), the re-routing of power around the damaged transmission sections aided in maintaining the reliable flow of energy where needed, mitigating additional electric outages.

Photo of line crews using basket trucks to work on damaged electric lines.
NIPCO crews work to repair storm damage near Neola, Iowa.

Thanks to the swift response of NIPCO’s teams and the re-routing of power, the remaining outages were reduced to approximately fifty by Saturday morning. Despite the additional severe weather and rain forecasted, NIPCO crews continued repair work from April 29th to May 3rd. Nearly a dozen NIPCO crew members and support teams worked to kit the necessary materials and source/place heavy equipment needed to repair the damaged structures. Despite the challenges posed by Mother Nature, NIPCO Operations teams remain optimistic about completing the repairs so members in Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Shelby counties can begin focusing efforts to clear damage and rebuild their communities.

As we navigate these challenges together, we thank our members for their patience and support. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those impacted. Stay safe and know that NIPCO is working hard for our members and the communities we serve, whatever the weather may bring.

Photo of a group of people sitting around a table and talking with an image of line damage projected onto a screen in front of them.
Early Monday morning, following the Friday storms and weekend repair efforts, NIPCO Operations staff gather to strategize to the work to be done in the coming week.


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