While most Midlanders cocooned indoors Sunday afternoon and evening as winter winds raged, about 20 utility workers climbed into the teeth of the Arctic front to restore power.
Bruce Hamel, a journeyman lineman for the Omaha Public Power District, said Sunday's conditions were about as tough as they come.
Wind gusts of 60 mph or greater snapped power lines and sent them whipping in the winds. Wires that didn't actually break off swung wildly.
“Sunday was very, very windy and just bitter, bitter cold,” he said. “You could not put on enough clothes to stay warm.”
About 1,700 OPPD customers lost power at the peak of the storm that created wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph across the region. The strongest gust in the Omaha area was measured at 61 mph.
The front ushered in bitter cold. Wind chills in the Omaha area dropped as low as 20 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
“That is my least-favorite weather to work in,” Hamel said. “You don't know if a tree limb is going to fall on you, it's dark, and it's just so cold.”
Jodi Baker, spokeswoman for OPPD, said the utility had 21 people out overnight, including Hamel. Of those, 11 were troubleshooters and the others were part of five two-member crews.
Hamel was among those working overtime. He came in at 7 p.m. Sunday, worked until 5 a.m. Monday, slept two hours in his truck, and went back to work for his regular shift Monday.
He said he and his co-workers kept an eye on each other and took breaks in the warm truck. Hamel's crew spent the night restoring power in southern Douglas County.
All wind-related outages were restored by about 2 a.m. Monday, Baker said.