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‘Needles’ in the storm

During whiteout weather conditions, trying to find the cause of power outages is often like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.
On Sunday, December 13, a snowstorm with high winds and whiteout conditions blew through the Panhandle causing about 6,700 total outages of varying durations and locations. The outages began about 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon and continued until power was restored to all affected areas at about 3 a.m. on Monday morning.  

The ‘needle’ causing the most outages in Cimarron County was a static and a phase line on a transmission structure that slapped each other then twisted and stuck together. The moist, fast-accumulating snow then covered the wrapped lines and made them invisible in the already whiteout conditions. 

To find the needle in this haystack, technicians used the process of elimination, opening and closing switches to different areas. They narrowed the outage cause to somewhere within 51 miles of transmission line between Guymon and Boise City. In that 51 miles, there were about 500 potential problem areas to look for. TCEC lineman drove and looked at every mile of line, even walking some of the inaccessible areas during the night. When the bucket trucks got stuck due to the muddy conditions, dedicated TCEC members and their tractors were on hand to pull them out. The twisted lines six miles west of Keyes were discovered around 2 a.m. Monday morning. Crews untwisted them to restore power.
In Beaver County, tie wire that held the phase line broke due to the high winds and caused outages. Again, the wet conditions caused the trucks to get stuck. County workers also look out for TCEC linemen and came to the rescue with a maintainer to pull the truck through to the area so repairs could be made. 

Members can report outages by calling 580.652.2418 or using the TCEC Mobile app. This ensures the outage is recorded and entered into a service order to be dispatched to a serviceman to restore power. Members can follow Facebook and Twitter for outage updates but should not use social media to report outages since it is not connected to the outage system. Visit for outage preparation and safety tips.
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Headquartered in Hooker, Oklahoma, Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC) is a not-for-profit distribution cooperative owned and controlled by its members. TCEC is committed to improving the quality of life for its members and communities by delivering safe, reliable and affordable electric service. The cooperative serves about 23,000 meters in the Oklahoma Panhandle, southwestern Kansas, the northern border of the Texas Panhandle and parts of Colorado and New Mexico. TCEC is a Touchstone Energy cooperative. For more information, visit


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