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Powerless

Many Freeborn-Mower Coop members have no electricity

Numbers

• 2,500 members, at least, of Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services were reported Sunday morning without power in the region.

• More than 5,700 members are part of the cooperative.

• More than 60 power poles and several Freeborn-Mower power lines to the ground from the storm.

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By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Vicki Zook’s family took a step back in time -- involuntarily -- this weekend, warming the house with the fireplace, lighting rooms with antique oil lamps and entertaining themselves with card games.

The Zooks’ home outside of Brownsdale lost power around noon Saturday because of the onslaught of ice and snow that hit the region this weekend; the power remained out until Sunday night, when the lights flickered back on and the furnace kicked in.

The Zooks were among the more than 2,200 customers of Freeborn-Mower Cooperative who lost power from the severe winter storm. Many small towns in Mower County lost power, including Brownsdale, Lyle and Rose Creek. Additional line crews were arriving through the weekend to get power back to the homes.

Many families were getting their power back today, while others waited and continued digging out from the heavy snowfall.

Aside from quality time with her husband and two teenager daughters, Zook said Sunday afternoon that it was a "constant job" to keep up their fireplace and plan for meals without using power, among other things.

"It really is stressful," Zook said.

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It will take "a couple of days" to restore power to all Freeborn-Mower members, according to the company, which is a member-owned electric co-op that provides energy to more than 5,700 consumers.

At least 60 power lines were reported down Sunday night by the co-op.

Alliant Energy, which provides service in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, reported Sunday that crews were working to restore electricity to about 100,000 customers in Iowa and Minnesota.

The storm began Friday evening, causing the cancellation of many events, including local high school sports.

In Austin, snow piled up in the middle of streets at times as crews tried to clear the roadways.

Officials from Austin Utilities said problems from the storm were minimal, so it sent six workers to help Freeborn-Mower.

A few miles northwest of Austin, Dianne Wiste, a Freeborn-Mower member, said she had been without power since around 5 p.m. Saturday. Her husband Steve, who drives a plow for the state, worked 12-hour shifts during the weekend.

Wiste’s neighbor, who’s also without power, let her borrow a small generator from Saturday to Sunday morning. New windows, siding and insulation put in a couple years ago, though, was keeping Wiste’s home at a "comfortable" temperature, she said.

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Taking care of her horses and clearing snow helped pass the time, Wiste said Sunday afternoon. "And I’m thinking about doing some scrap-booking here."

As for Zook, friends from Austin came up to her place Sunday in their four-wheel pickup truck and helped clear snow. Able to communicate by cell phone, Zook said "tons of offers" for help have come in to her family, such as for water and places to stay.

She added: "This is when you know who your good friends are."

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