“One of the worst” : Arrowhead Cooperative shares insights after the winter storm
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“One of the worst” : Arrowhead Cooperative shares insights after the winter storm

It has been one week since a severe winter storm wreaked havoc on businesses, residents, and lineman crews along the North Shore.

“It was one of the worst ones, I think,” John Twiest, CEO/General Manager at Arrowhead Cooperative, said. “I don’t ever recall seeing winds like that, that steady for that long period.”

Sustained 60 mph winds lasted nearly 48 hours in areas of Cook County. During the intense storm, the Grand Marais harbor recorded wind gusts at 74 miles an hour. Twiest said, “Which is, in my mind, just nuts.”

Twiest said Arrowhead Cooperative received the first call of a power outage near Colvill and up to the Canadian border on Friday, Dec. 23, at 8 a.m.

“And then it just increased from there. Trees started to come down,” Twiest said. “We just started trying to understand the total scope of the problem.”

He added Arrowhead Cooperative had to wait for the transmission lines to come back online before they could deduce what was happening to the system. “In this particular storm, it was really difficult. We lost the transmission line four times.”

The transmission lines are the high-voltage lines that provide power and run along Highway 61 and many county backroads.

As the storm intensified and Cook County experienced widespread power outages, seven trucks with additional linemen from Great River Energy arrived to assist.

Twiest said the dangerously high winds created challenges for many of the Cook County and Great River Energy linemen. “We’re very well trained and understand what that job is,” he said. “But the storm added another level.”

“When trees are falling down, limbs are breaking, that stuff blows around and creates even more danger,” he said. “Those guys are out there with their heads on swivels, listening to everything going on.” The crews worked in groups of three or four to ensure each other’s safety during the storm.

Twiest thanked all the Cook County residents and Arrowhead Cooperative members who called in during the storm. “I’d say what was really helpful was the amount of information that was coming in from the community,” he added.

While power is restored and the winds have subsided, Arrowhead Cooperative is still busy conducting cleanup after the storm. Twiest said Arrowhead Cooperative has crews coming this week to replace broken poles, investigate lines, and assess additional damage.

Twiest shared his final thoughts on the storm, “We got through this one, and like all of us Minnesotans say, hey, it could have been worse.”

WTIP’s Mark Abrahamson spoke with John Twiest with the Arrowhead Cooperative following the storm. Audio from the interview is below.