Extreme temperatures across the nation are prompting power companies to take precautions, including asking residents to reduce their power consumption.
On Tuesday, Feb. 16 Southwest Power Pool (SPP) declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 effective immediately for its entire 14-state balancing authority area. Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative is a part of SPP.
“The unprecedented cold snap and snow throughout the central United States is affecting our power grid,” MWEC PR and Communications Coordinator Jessica George told the Williston Herald. “With SPP there are 14 states involved in that, and we pool our power sources together. Because of the cold temperatures that the southern parts are seeing, they are increasing their usage.”
As a result, MWEC has been asked by SPP to encourage reduced energy consumption in its members and be prepared to shed load in its service territory. George said MWEC has reduced power consumption within its local facilities, and have asked their industrial and commercial members to reduce their usage as well, and/or use a generator if possible.
“As of right now, we don’t have any residential turned off.” George added. “Residential is a last resort, especially because of where our temperatures are.”
George added that the situation may change depending on SPP requirements. She stated that if power outages were necessary, MWEC would give as much notice as possible to any effected residents. George specified that MWEC would not turn power off for more than an hour, and that they were hoping for 45 minutes, if required. George emphasized again that rolling outages were not planned for the area at this time.
George urged residents to be good neighbors and share the information with any neighbors that may not have social media or internet access. MWEC will post updates regularly on their website and Facebook regarding the emergency declaration, she explained.
“The reason we are continually posting information isn’t to scare anybody or tell it’s going to happen, we’re just trying to give them as much information as possible that it could happen.” George said. “We want our members to be as prepared as possible.”
Steps to lower electricity usage:
Turn your thermostat to 68 degrees to reduce electric heat demand
Avoid using large appliances like clothes washers, clothes dryers, and ovens
Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances
Montana-Dakota Utilities released the following statement regarding the emergency situation:
“Montana-Dakota Utilities is a member of the MISO transmission grid and energy market. MISO does not expect to implement load reductions today, and Montana-Dakota Utilities does not expect any power interruptions today. The region’s other transmission/energy group, Southwest Power Pool, is curtailing load again today. Montana-Dakota Utilities does not receive energy from SPP and therefore is not impacted.”
It’s not ghosts they’re busting between the stacks at the Williston Community Library, it’s germs, and it’s for your protection.
It’s called an Electrostatic Sprayer, and it’s adding an extra layer of protection, and convenience, for library patrons and staff. The bright green blaster sprays a solution called VitalOxide, which is an EPA registered disinfectant cleaner, mold killer and odor eliminator. The disinfectant eliminates a wide range of germs and viruses, including COVID-19. The library recently acquired the sprayer, which is similar to ones already being used in other facilities such as Williston Public Works and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Library Director Andrea Placher said the sprayer is a new tool that staff can use to keep themselves and patrons safe. The finer mist is able to better cover surfaces, she explained, getting into hard to reach cracks and crevices that other cleaning sprays cannot.
“It’s a game changer,” Placher told the Williston Herald.
The VitalOxide solution is safe for virtually every surface, will not damage electronics or paper, and is completely food safe. Placher said adding the sprayer to the library’s arsenal of germ-fighting weapons not only increases the protection for themselves and the patrons, but makes cleaning more convenient and efficient for the staff.
Previously as visitors used the facility’s computers, each station’s keyboard was wrapped in plastic wrap, requiring staff to put on gloves, remove the wrap, clean the station and re-wrap the keyboard. Now, a quick mist from the sprayer kills germs within ten seconds, eliminating the need for gloves and plastic wrap altogether.
Additionally, patrons had been required to use a cart to collect any materials they came in contact with so that staff could clean them before placing them back on the shelves. The electrostatic sprayer is so effective that patrons can essentially browse as normal, and the spray will eliminate any germs left behind.
Placher said the sprayer is helping the library on its path to being more open to the public, as they will begin to allow patrons to use the building’s study cubicles beginning in March. The solution is safer for staff as well, as there is virtually no smell or harmful chemicals to breathe in. Another sprayer will be purchased for the Bookmobile, Placher added, noting that the spray is a far safer option for use in traveling library’s small space.
“It’s just a more efficient way for us to operate,” she said. “There was of course an investment for this device and the solution, but in the long run, big-picture of things, it’s going to be a time-saver, which equals cost savings as well.”
Despite the extra protection, Placher said the library will continue requiring patrons to wear a mask as they use the facility. Allowing more patrons into the building does make it more necessary to remain cautious, she said, and with the library being used as registration center for the COVID vaccine, Placher said members of the vulnerable population stop in several times a day.
“We want to make it a safe environment for them to be able to do that,” she said.
North Dakota confirmed Wednesday, Feb. 17, the first cases in the state of a COVID-19 variant discovered in the UK. What does that mean?
Viruses change and mutate — scientists expected that with COVID-19, but there are still unanswered questions.
In the fall, the United Kingdom identified a variant COVID strain, one that was concerning because it seemed to be more contagious.
“This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote. “In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding.”
There are many things scientists are still trying to figure out, including how widespread the varients are, whether they cause different symptoms and whether they respond to the same treatments. That last point is especially serious as the United States continues its efforts to roll out a vaccine against the disease. As of Wednesday, Feb. 17, about 14% of North Dakota residents had been vaccinated.
The CDC, along with other public health officials, have stressed the importance of keeping COVID-19 prevention measures in place.
“Rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health,” the CDC wrote.
The North Dakota cases were confirmed Tuesday. One person had recently traveled inside the United States and the other was a close contact.
“Surveillance testing for the variant has been ongoing at the North Dakota Public Health Lab and in collaboration with other diagnostic laboratories,” said Dr. Christie Massen, Public Health Lab Director. Surveillance consists of genomic sequencing on portions of COVID-19 positive specimens.
“This variant strain is thought to be more contagious which reinforces the importance of continuing to wear a mask, physical distancing, staying home when you’re sick, getting tested, and quarantining when you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive,” said Kirby Kruger, Disease Control Director for the NDDoH. “Getting the vaccine when it’s your turn is another great way to prevent the spread of the variant strain.”
A 36-year-old man is facing three felony charges after police say he paid a 16-year-old girl for sexual encounters and explicit images and videos.
Patrick Wiese was arrested Tuesday, Feb. 16, and charged with promoting or directing an obscene sexual performance by a minor and patronizing a minor for commercial sexual activity, both class A felonies, and possession of certain materials prohibited, a class C felony. He was ordered held on $50,000 bond.
The girl told police that she had multiple discussions with Wiese about paid sexual encounters and that he had paid her for explicit photos and videos, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. The pair chatted and she sent images to him using Snapchat.
The two discuss the cost for photos and video, with Wiese offering $100 for three photos and video of the girl masturbating, court records state. They also discuss the cost of sexual encounters, eventually settling on $150 for two times per week.
On another occasion, the girl asked Wiese for more money for photos, charging documents indicate.
“Wiese asks if there really are six images coming, and asks how much,” investigators wrote in the probable cause affidavit. “That Doe I indicates 80 in addition to the previous $100.00 and Wiese agrees.”
Wiese has pleaded not guilty and waived a preliminary hearing. A trial on the charges is scheduled for June 21.
Doses received statewide: 186,250
Doses administered statewide: 166,512
Residents who have gotten at least one dose: 102,857
Statewide rate for one dose: 14.1%
Statewide rate for two doses: 7.0%
Williams County rate for one dose: 8.8%
Williams County rate for two doses: 3.9%
Divide County rate for one dose: 17.6%
Divide County rate for two doses: 9.3%
McKenzie County rate for one dose: 10.3%
McKenzie County rate for two doses: 3.2%
Mountrail County rate for one dose: 18.5%
Mountrail County rate for two doses: 4.2%