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February 2024

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Photo by Geoff Goins Mike Ritterhouse leans against a fallen behemoth at the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area in Red River.

Local Area Still Reeling From Storm Damages

Photo by Ernesto Cisneros: The hardest hit area was Red River. This tree was uprooted at Young’s Ranch in Upper Red River.

Parts of Taos County and Colorado are still reeling from damage caused by strong winds on December 15. Winds clocked at over 100 mph toppled countless trees, some pulled up from the roots, others snapped in half, landing on power poles and transformers, and blocking access to roads and trails. Thousands of locals were without electricity for over 24 hours and internet service was even slower to restore. Witnesses commented that the damage in Taos was concentrated in a long swath about 50 feet wide, with everything in its path damaged, not unlike the work of a tornado.

Taos County was declared a state of emergency. Red River was hard hit; electrical service in the upper valley/Bobcat Pass area took several days to restore. While Kit Carson Electric crews worked around the clock making quick progress replacing poles, there were supply issues with replacing transformers, which slowed down efforts. Some electrical components imported from China were unavailable.

Our bitter storm came just days after tornadoes ripped through six states. Hardest hit was Kentucky. Crews and supplies from across the US were sent to help restore the devastation, leaving western states with a shortage of linemen, transformers, and other equipment.

Parts of Colorado were also left without power for days. Colorado Springs suffered outages, clocking winds at 102 mph at the Air Force Academy. Repairs were slow because personnel were doing relief work in Kentucky and neighboring states. Electrical transformers that were available were sent to that region.

The outage stopped work for those reliant on technology. Even the US Postal Service was unable to process mail without electricity and internet. For those who rely on well water pumped with electricity, this outage was a real crisis. (It’s a good idea to have water stashed for such an emergency.) While those prepared with candles and kerosene lamps were cozy and content, others were not so comfortable.

The Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area remains closed due to significant damage. Ellen Goins reports: “We estimate tens of thousands of trees are down throughout the forest—about 3,000 are down just on the ski trails at EFXC. Co-owner Geoff and longtime general manager Mike Ritterhouse figured there were about 100 trees per linear kilometer and using that estimate and the total cross country ski area acreage of about 640 acres, my brother, John Miller, a physicist with the University of Houston, estimated 26,000-33,000 trees are down just within our forest permit area in the Carson National Forest.”

Bobby Ortega, President of the Board of Trustees for Kit Carson Electric Co-op, said there were eight different crews from Kit Carson working tirelessly to restore service. They re-routed electricity from the Eagle Nest array to other hard-hit areas. Ortega is proud of these linemen and engineers, working long hours, sometimes in sub-freezing temperatures and other harsh conditions. Kudos to these essential workers!

Luis Reyes, Jr., CEO of Kit Carson, said he had never seen anything like this storm—thunder, lightning, rain, sleet, snow, and extreme winds that blew roofs off houses. When asked if the growing extreme weather is caused by global warming, he said, “We are never going to beat Mother Nature.” Climate change may require a new assessment of design criteria for America’s power grid: power poles may need to be thicker and underground electric lines may become part of the conversation.

Please report any outages you experience to Kit Carson directly. The number is (575) 758-6100.