BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today met with local officials, residents and ranchers in Crosby and other parts of Divide County in far northwest North Dakota to survey infrastructure damage from last weekend’s severe spring storm and discuss how the state can help the area recover from widespread power outages.
Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard and director of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDDES), and state Homeland Security Director Darin Hanson joined Burgum at the Divide County Courthouse for a briefing from local officials including Crosby Mayor and state Rep. Bert Anderson, Divide County Emergency Manager Jody Gunlock, Sheriff Zach Schroeder, county commissioners, city leaders from Ambrose, Noonan and Fortuna, Divide County School District Superintendent Sherlock Hirning and utility representatives.
The meeting took place next to a conference room that has been converted into an emergency shelter with cots and meals for residents who have been without electricity for up to four days. Utility representatives said it could be two weeks or longer before power is restored to all areas.
“As is always the case when severe weather strikes North Dakota, we saw incredible examples of neighbors helping neighbors and communities pulling together to overcome unprecedented obstacles,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful for the leadership on display at all levels and for the tireless efforts of first responders, law enforcement, snowplow crews, utility workers, local, state and federal agencies and others working to protect lives and property. The State of North Dakota will continue to respond with a whole-of-government approach that prioritizes the health, safety and well-being of our citizens.”
Dohrmann and Hanson worked with the local officials to identify resource needs such as generators, heavy equipment and even unmanned aerial vehicles to survey damage in areas where roads are still impassable, and to coordinate with NDDES and other state agencies to assist with recovery. They said they’re confident the storm event will qualify for a presidential disaster declaration, which would make federal assistance available to help cover recovery costs.
Jerry King, general manager of Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative, estimated damage to the co-op’s system at $10 million to $20 million, with more than 1,000 utility poles on the ground and 14 miles of transmission lines damaged.
“We’re in an emergency restoration phase right now, which is about getting lights on to the homes,” said King, who also serves on the Crosby City Council.
King expressed appreciation for the emergency declaration issued by the state on Monday, as well as a declaration by Divide County, noting they will make public funds accessible to help restore power and repair damage.
“We just appreciate any help we can get. It’s going to be a long haul. It’s bad out there,” he said.
Schroeder, the sheriff, said the biggest challenge is communicating with residents, with so many without power and a communications system for first responders temporarily offline due to a downed tower.
“People have great pride up here, but we want to let them know that resources are available if they need it,” he said.
On Monday, Burgum declared a statewide emergency for flooding and widespread utility infrastructure damage caused by last weekend’s severe storm. The governor also declared a disaster for areas impacted by record snowfall during the historic blizzard April 12-14 based on local costs incurred for snow removal. Additional counties may be added to the declarations as county damage and cost assessments are completed and submitted to NDDES. Burgum plans to request presidential disaster declarations for both events to unlock federal assistance to help pay for snow removal and infrastructure repairs.