It was around 2 a.m. on May 25 when Stoughton Utilities director Jill Weiss got the phone call.
She was awakened by utilities support staff who were alerted to power outages by the Stoughton Police Department dispatch.
More than a quarter of Stoughton Utilities customers were without power during the ordeal, and Public Works and Stoughton Fire Department staff were out from the early morning hours into the afternoon assisting with the storm clean up. In addition to the work of dozens of city staff, four surrounding communities offered utilities assistance to help with the power outages.
The restoration efforts were so severe that Weiss made the call around 7 a.m. to request emergency assistance from Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin (MEUW), which organized help from Brodhead Water and Light, Waunakee Utilities, Jefferson Utilities and Evansville Water and Light.
“We were concerned about the damage but were also concerned about pulling the trigger too quickly,” Weiss said. She explained that her team waited until daylight to make the call for help because the outside agencies would be lost in how and where everything operates in Stoughton, and she also wanted to make sure the damage was assessed correctly.
The initial outage was caused by a transmission, so after that was immediately restored, crews focused on other damaged power lines and brought those back on. In total, nine transmission poles needed to be restored, and five trucks with nine different line techs came from the area utilities for support.
“This is a significant event for us; we’re going to do a ‘lessons learned’ and reach out to the other entities involved and learn what we can do better in the future to be better prepared,” Weiss said. “As well as this went, I don’t think it could have been better, but there are some takeaways and ways that we can be better prepared for next time.”
Mayor Tim Swadley called the level of work “pretty impressive.”
“The dedicated employees, not only from Stoughton but also area municipalities joined us in our efforts, and without them and their help we would have had a difficult time getting trees cleared and the power restored,” he said.
Fire, Public Works support
Along with Utilities crews restoration efforts, the Stoughton Fire Department and Public Works crews were out for most of Saturday helping with the cleanup.
Stoughton Fire Department chief Scott Wegner said his team was dispatched at around 1:50 a.m. and sent to about a dozen different addresses.
“There was an elevator rescue at Rosewood because the power went out and someone was stuck in the elevator,” Wegner said.
The only fire was behind Cummins, because when the power came back on, there was a tree in contact with the powerline. So his team waited on standby while utility came to take care of the situation.
Public works staff were first dispatched around 2:30 a.m. to assist with trees down on the roadways.
“Our on-call staff person responded and immediately called his supervisor as he realized this was a much bigger event than just one limb down in the roadway,” public works director Brett Hebert said.
Six staff members and Hebert were in on Saturday morning and worked for over 10 hours to clear debris and eliminate tree hazards. Hebert said 32 trees needed to be completely removed or hazards taken out, less than .5 percent of the entire city managed tree stock.
“We have made a big push to trim our city-owned trees over the last few years and the benefits show during storm events like this one,” he said.
Clean up citywide, will last weeks, Hebert said.
“I am incredibly proud of the way staff all came together, assisted the situation, came up with a plan and executed the plan in an efficient manner,” he said. “We are truly lucky to have the dedicated staff that we do.”