Hurricane-force winds caused more Omaha-area power outages than any storm in recent decades

No storm in recent decades caused more Omaha-area residences and businesses to lose power than the one Saturday that sent hurricane-force winds ripping through the metropolitan area.

And as of Sunday afternoon, fewer than 54,000 Omaha Public Power District customers remained without power — nearly 40 hours after the storm downed trees and power lines, and forced those who rely on electricity for medical care to seek shelter elsewhere.

The bulk of those outages were in Douglas County, according to the Omaha Public Power District's outage map. Several thousand customers in Sarpy County also did not yet have power restored.​

Based on available OPPD records, the 188,000 customers who lost power over the weekend were the most to do so because of a storm in decades, according to an OPPD spokeswoman — and perhaps the most ever.

The number of affected customers topped the toll of a June 27, 2008, storm that left 156,000 without electricity, according to Laura King-Homan, a communications specialist for OPPD.

The historic snowstorm that pummeled a Halloween-decorated Omaha in October 1997 left 150,000 in the dark.

More recently, a Father's Day tornado in 2017 left about 75,000 searching for candles and flashlights.

The work to restore power was far from over, OPPD said in an update, and the work that remained could be "more labor-intensive for crews who are dealing with large trees, tree limbs and debris." Crews have been working round-the-clock.

King-Homan said Sunday morning that she didn't have a definitive timeline for how much longer it may take to fully restore power.

Crews are assigned to projects based on bringing the most residences and businesses back online at once, she said. For example, fixing a transformer that would bring power back to 1,000 people would be prioritized over a power line that serves a smaller number of homes.

Saturday, OPPD crews also were focused on critical locations like hospitals and water treatment plants. On Sunday, workers began to address more difficult situations, where trees or debris had to be cleared away before restoration work could begin, King-Homan said.

"That's why the outage numbers are not falling as dramatically as they did (Saturday)," she said.

OPPD CEO Javier Fernandez on Saturday called the outage "one of the largest events" in the power district's history. It's thought that it could take days to fully restore power to the area.

More than 132,000 people in OPPD's 13-county service area had had their power restored by Sunday afternoon, down from Saturday's peak.

In Nebraska, workers from the Lincoln Electric System, Loup Power District and Norris Public Power District traveled to Omaha to help with restoration efforts. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy sent workers, as did companies that OPPD contracts with, including Watts Electric in Waverly.

"We've had to turn away some mutual aid offers," King-Homan said. "It's been very overwhelming and touching how many people have offered to help."

OPPD cautioned that downed power lines could still be energized and dangerous, and said people should not approach or touch them. Residents should report downed lines at OPPD.com or by calling 800-554-6773.

Saturday's storm set another record. In terms of crews in the field, OPPD has deployed more workers than ever before to get power back online — a total of 539 crew members, King-Homan said.

"That's the most people we've ever had working on a storm," she said. "That shows you the severity."​

Thousands are still without power across state after overnight storms.

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