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Overnight storms blow down power poles, close part of US 50 in Otero County all day Wednesday

OTERO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) – Black Hills Energy said that strong winds from severe storms overnight Tuesday knocked eight transmission power poles down onto US 50, leading authorities to close the highway in both directions between Fowler and Manzanola for most of the day Wednesday.

The closure was first reported just before 5 a.m. on Wednesday; early in the afternoon, authorities had reopened one lane to allow alternating traffic and that continued as of 6 p.m.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the closure is between County Road 9.5 and County Road 10, one mile west of Manzanola.

Steve Lennerts, a construction supervisor for Black Hills Energy, said that the utility quickly responded to the situation despite the challenge of finding enough crews on the day before the start of the long holiday weekend.

"We had around 50 workers and 30 vehicles," he said. "Some of them were private contractors. We got as many as we could."

Lennerts said that he hoped to have repairs completed and power restored by Wednesday evening.

"We've heard that between 8 and 30 customers were without power," he said.

Lennerts also said that while voltage transmission usually stops when a pole or line is down, crews were careful to ensure that no live lines were present.

CDOT alerted drivers drivers to expect delays from traffic impacts, and to avoid detouring onto county roads that could be flooded.

Authorities diverted traffic north to Highway 96 and south to Highway 10.

Sara Gade, manager of a Fowler convenience store, said that the storm was one of the most intense that she can remember.

"It was crazy," she recalled. "We got more than three inches of rain. The lightning was like someone tirning a light switch on and off, for quite a few hours. It knocked out our power for four hours."

Meanwhile, thousands more Black Hills Energy customers along US 50 -- between eastern Pueblo and Otero counties, experienced a separate series of power outages early Wednesday morning; as of 6:30 a.m., all but 611 of those impacted had their power restored.

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Sadie Buggle


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