Police: common sense key during long-term power outage

By Brandi Makuski

Following Saturday’s storm, local police are asking residents to take a common-sense approach to deal with possible extended power outages.

Saturday’s storm event was brief, less than 30 minutes, but brought almost two inches of rain to some parts of Portage Co.—and included a high wind gust of 86 mph in Plover 10:29 a.m., according to ploverweather.com.

The storm caused temporary flooding in several parts of the area and blew over hundreds of trees, effectively knocking out power for thousands.

Wisconsin Public Service reported at 10 p.m. on July 20 that crews were working “around the clock” to restore power, but as of 9:20 a.m. Sunday, no updates have been provided since Saturday night’s Facebook post. Multiple attempts to reach media contacts at WPS have been unsuccessful.

Emergency crews across the county have been working to clear roadways, according to James Williams, Emergency Management Deputy Chief for Portage Co., adding residents experiencing power outages should contact their power company, not the dispatch center.

“The Portage County Communications Center has been extremely busy fielding hundreds of storm-related calls,” Williams said in a press release sent late Saturday night. “Emergency crews are busy assisting where needed.”

Police departments in Stevens Point and Plover spent Saturday night on backup power. Plover Chief Dan Ault said PPD switched over to its emergency generator at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, but power was restored to the station at 10:30 p.m.

“A lot of roads have been cleared by either village crew or the amazing citizenry we have—at least a lot of the trees have been moved,” Ault said by phone Sunday morning.

Ault said the village’s emergency team was meeting mid-Sunday morning, and he expects some sort of update from Fire Chief Mark Deaver, Administrator Dan Mahoney, and other village staff, on how the village is fairing in the storm’s aftermath.

“I think what amazed me was the people that were coming out helping one another,” Ault said. “I had people come to my house, a few of the neighbors I didn’t even know, and checking on my wife to see if she was alright. “I thought it was pretty awesome that people were out there within minutes clearing trees off the road.”

Stevens Point Police Chief Martin Skibba said he, too, is working with city staff to get updates on Sunday. WPS is making a priority of reestablishing power for local medical centers, to include Ascension St. Michael’s Hospital, he said.

Skibba said he was unaware of any shelters being opened in the city, but asked residents to check on each other.

“Do the neighborly thing and check on your neighbors, because if they’re elderly or injured in some way, they may not be able to move around,” he said. “If you can’t stay in your home, look into reaching out to another family with power, although Central Wisconsin took quite a hit as a whole.”

Skibba also suggested residents could reach out to local churches, or contact the Salvation Army Hope Center if they need help.

But most important, Skibba said, police are asking motorists to use extra caution on the roads.

“We’re asking people to be very cautious if they’re out driving and be aware of the potential for downed power lines that crews may not yet be aware of,” Skibba said Sunday. “While people are traveling through town, be understanding and patient, especially at intersections that are typically lit but without power right now: they should be treating those as four-way stops.”

What you can do

  • If you need help, ask for it from neighbors, family, friends, or local churches.
  • If you’re using a generator, follow the instructions and place it far enough from your residence to avoid a fire hazard.
  • Check on your neighbors, even if you don’t know them.
  • Dig out your first aid kit and keep it handy.
  • Keep your household fire extinguisher close by.
  • Store food in a cooler, with ice, if possible.
  • To use up food before it goes bad, invite your neighborhood for a potluck meal in a local park. Use caution while driving and avoid downed power lines.
  • If you need additional help, or a place to shelter, contact the Salvation Army Hope Center at (715) 341-2437.