Christmas Day ice storm leaves parts of southeastern North Dakota without power for 11 days

down pole

Photo by Cass County Electric Cooperative

Frozen power lines
Minnkota crew

Whoever said “rain is a good thing” wasn’t referencing late December rain in North Dakota. Christmas Day rain blanketed southeastern North Dakota in a sheet of ice, which caused major damage to the electric system and left some North Dakotans without power for 11 days.

Electric cooperatives described it as “the worst ice storm since 1997.” Dakota Valley and Cass County electric cooperatives were hit hardest by the storm, while KEM, Mor-Gran-Sou, Nodak and Northern Plains electric cooperative members also experienced outages.

“Freezing rain began in the east central region of DVEC’s territory and worked its way west, eventually covering three-fourths of the system,” says Mark Kinzler, Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative (DVEC) general manager.

Additional rains posed challenges and damage from the storm continued to mount in the final days of 2023. Lines collapsed under the weight of the ice, which was reported by lineworkers up to 4 to 6 inches thick, and fallen trees caused further damage to electric infrastructure.

“The freezing rain lasted for three days,” Kinzler says. “It tore down poles and line that had just been repaired a day or two before in the early part of the storm, making damage assessments impossible as line kept going down.”

According to, 2 inches of ice adds 2,248 pounds of weight to a 300-foot span of 1-inch thick power lines. That’s like adding more than eight Ford F-150 pickup trucks per mile of line!

Mother Nature, however, provided some unseasonably warm and sunny days, which helped melt most ice off the power lines by Dec. 29. Absent from the storm, too, was North Dakota’s characteristic wind, thus preventing more widespread and devastating impacts.

While a “thank you” to Mother Nature might not be in the mail, there are many thanks to go around.

“For our employees working long hours through the holidays, our sister cooperatives and crews providing mutual aid, contractors, those who cleared roads, community members who provided food and words of encouragement, and our members for their understanding and patience, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for at Dakota Valley,” Kinzler says. “These tough and trying situations often bring out the best in all of us, especially in small-town rural America. We care about our neighbors, and we look out for each other. That’s the North Dakota way.”

Cally Peterson is editor of North Dakota Living. She can be reached at


’Twas the day after Christmas
With decorations so bright,
We had freezing rain,
And out went the lights.

Our neighbors came by
To get the generator going.
Rain in December
Is much worse than it snowing.

The linemen worked hard
In conditions so tough.
They missed time with their family,
So we wouldn’t have it so rough.

Day seven arrived,
And what should appear?
Several Dakota Valley trucks going by,
When through my window I peered.

My heart started pounding
And I started a cheer:
The linemen are coming,
We’ll have electricity here!

A few hours went by,
Our lights started to glow.
I swear they were brighter
Than Rudolph’s red nose.

We’d like to say thanks
For working so hard,
So we can look out our window
And see the light in our yard.

–This is a shortened version of a poem written by Sally Tvedt, a Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative member who was without power for seven days due to the Christmas 2023 ice storm. Read the full version online at


•    More than $5 million in system damage.
•    An estimated 1,250 broken power line poles.
•    More than 70% of the cooperative’s 4,200 members lost power.
•    Twelve electric co-ops from North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana provided mutual aid, sending lineworkers and equipment to help. At the peak, 121 lineworkers were working to restore power, in addition to the co-op’s entire staff.
•    It took 11 days for electricity to be restored to the last occupied residence.
•    Cleanup continues as the co-op works to document the storm damage.

•    Nearly 1,200 broken power line poles.
•    It took nearly 12 days for power to be restored to all members.
•    Approximately 20,000 hours worked by co-op staff and mutual aid crews from 13 electric cooperatives across North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.