Goshen County deals with major blackout, blizzard

TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Friday evening and Saturday brought a major snowstorm with high winds to eastern Wyoming, causing a major blackout and high drifts within Goshen County. Most of Torrington and Goshen County were without heat and electricity ranging from 6-28 hours.

Torrington Mayor Randy Adams said his understanding is the blackout happened when the main electrical feed from the substation between Torrington and Henry was being affected by the high winds.

“The lines were sliding, slapping and arcing,” Adams said. “The crews couldn’t keep the station loaded.”

The linemen spent the rest of the night from about 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. making a connection from the substation by Stegall, which is south of Henry, so they could bypass the station east of Torrington and get electricity back to the city. Adams said he wasn’t quite sure how it works but they had to work one line at a time, as different parts of the area got power back at different times.

“Our biggest concern was unforeseen problems from the storm,” he said. “Our dispatch center was so overwhelmed with calls, saying the power went out and more calls wondering when it would come on. We didn’t have that many people on duty and they just couldn’t answer all the calls.

“Poor choices that people made out in the county, were getting on the roads,” he added. “It would take a long time to get to them and get their problems resolved. People were trying to get home from Thanksgiving and getting their kids back to school ¬- they just were making wise decisions.”

One thing good about this situation is that “We have learned a lot in what we need to do if this happens again,” Adams said.

He is going to round-up all local emergency management, first responders, the national guard, Department of Health and get a plan in action, so that Torrington is better prepared. He would like to see a well-stocked shelter for people to go to when there is no electricity or heat.

He again praised the electrical crews from Wyrulec and the city on doing a great job in horrendous weather conditions.

“We did send out the emergency call to everyone to stay in place and do not go on the highways,” Adams said. Those that did were good and safe.

More police officers were called in and the ones that were able to, did work extra.

Adams has heard comments about how the power was all coming on at different times, from outside of city limits to Hawk Springs, Lingle-Fort Laramie to Torrington.

“All I understand is that they had to energize parts of the town, working with the gas company before they could turn it on,” he added.

Goshen County Emergency Management Coordinator Shelly Kircheffer said that there were a few medical emergencies in the county where a snowplow had to help get to the people for EMT’s to get them out.

“Other than that, that’s about it,” she said. “We’ve been through this scenario before. The roads get closed, you hunker down and people stay in and do well. When the roads did open people with no power went to town to get a warm meal and warm up.”

She added that Yoder, Veteran and Hawk Springs were the last to get their power back.

“There was a lot of damage done to those lines,” she said. “But, big kudos to Wyrulec and all the lineman, they did a great job and worked good with emergency services.

“I think everyone in the county did what they needed to, they’ve been through this time and time again,” Kircheffer added. “But, in the end there are some things that you think of that would have helped in some of the issues that came up.”

Only a couple people had to be helped with digging them out, she said. They were from out of town, Florida and Texas.

“They had no clue and didn’t really understand what a blizzard does in Wyoming,” Kircheffer said.

Kudos also need to be given to the state for keeping the highways cleared, and Goshen County Road and Bridge got to work digging people out and broke through some of the areas that were heavily drifted, she added.

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