North Fork of the Blackfoot River

When The Power Goes Out, So Do We

Posted: January 27, 2020

Blizzards, rainstorms and bears, oh my! The Linemen and Tree Trimming Crews at Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC) have worked under a variety of conditions when responding to power outages across our seven-district service area. Whether those conditions be weather, wildlife or terrain-related, over the past 84 years, our crews have seen it all!

MEC’s members are very familiar with Mother Nature’s wild sense of humor in the North West. Our crews have tangled with some of her harshest storms while restoring power to our members. Foreman Nick Labbe recalls such a storm, “In December 2017, the Seeley, Condon and Helmville area had record snowfall. Our crews worked 16 hours a day, for a week, trying to restore power to our members. Eventually, MEC had to rent Tucker Sno-Cats to transport crews to repair problem areas.”

Another situation our crews have been trained and equipped to handle is working around or near a variety of wildlife that inhabit our service areas. “While working on the game range in the Woodworth area, our crews had to be on high-alert for grizzly bears,” Nick commented. From grizzly bears to bull moose, our linemen have been challenged with working near some of the most dangerous animals in the kingdom.

As many of you may know, the name “Montana” stemmed from the Spanish word for Mountain. Our crews are very familiar with the mountainous terrain spread across our territory in Western Montana and Idaho. Some of these areas require access with specialized equipment and even snowmobiles, depending on the time of year. Can you imagine snowmobiling through a blizzard at 2 AM to assess and restore an outage? Yeah, me either.

Our crews are often asked what the most challenging part of their role is. While answers vary, an overwhelming number of linemen will echo Nick when they say, “The most challenging part is dealing with the cards Mother Nature has dealt you – whether it be snow, wind or wild fires.”

Regardless of the environmental hurdles, our Linemen and Tree Trimmers will tell you that they love what they do. They enjoy the physical nature of their jobs and are blessed to work amid some of the most remarkable scenery in the world. With a duty to serve our members, our crews work hard to ensure MEC delivers safe and reliable energy at all hours of the day and in all conditions. As a member, we hope you can rest easy knowing that, “when the power goes out, so do we.”