Rod Waldrip, Retired Senior Facility Engineer at BD – Holdrege presented the program.
Below is an article about the program written by Patti Simpson.
A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Nebraska Prairie Museum during Tuesday night’s frigid temperatures for the Phelps County Historical Society’s quarterly program. PCHS board member, Rod Waldrip presented his program on “How the 2006/2007 Ice Storm Effected BD and the Community.” Rod Waldrip is now retired, but during the ice storm, he was the Senior Facility Engineer at Becton Dickinson here in Holdrege. In 2009, Rod was asked to present a program on the ice storm at a conference in Grand Island. For the Museum’s program, he combined his presentation with one previously put together by NPPD to give an in depth insight on what is considered, “the storm of the century.” Rod first described the extensive damage to the area. The first ice storm hit on December 22, 2006 with minor damage. BD was on holiday shut down at that time, so they were not in production. The second storm hit on December 30, 2006 with more freezing rain. At 6:10 pm that evening, the power went out in Holdrege. On January 2, 2007, BD learned that there would be NO power for about six weeks as the problem was much more serious than anyone could have guessed. NPPD’s evaluation of the problem was almost impossible to wrap your head around. There were 40 steel transmission towers down; 1,127 structures damaged; over 1,000 miles of high voltage line out of service; 31 miles of transition lines down; and at least 35 communities with no power. Even 200 trains had to stop running as there was no electricity to run the switches and there were also many power poles that had fallen on the tracks. Their call center received overt 45,000 calls. The ice had cause major damage, and Holdrege was in the worst shape. Because NPPD could not move power through the area, they had to purchase power from other companies. This came at a heavy cost. They assessed over 2,650 miles of lines were damaged that left 11,612 retail and 31,000 wholesale customers without power. By January 29, 2007, the last community was back up and running with the entire service area completely back up by May 10, 2007. In order to replace the 40 towers; 3,000 wood poles; and 400 miles of cable, NPPD needed help. They brought in Dawson Power and Southern Power workers and 220-320 additional contractors plus their own NPPD staff. Rod Waldrip put up a map showing that all four Nebraska BD plants were affected by the ice storm, but the Holdrege plant was in the worst shape. The Holdrege plant uses more electricity than the entire city of Holdrege. The BD plant needed five generators of 2mw each for a total of 10mw. At the time, BD had one emergency natural gas powered generator. Their phones had backup power for two hours and their internet backup power was only good for about one hour. Communication was an issue. BD immediately set their priorities in order. Their first priority was safety; second was the community’s welfare; third was their associate’s welfare; and last was their production. They told the generator companies to serve the city first. When BD did get their first large generator, it just got the lights and heat going. Eventually they got five generators. On January 16, 2007 at 2:00 pm, BD was up and back to regular production. All lost production was caught up by July 2007. All employees/associates were paid their 40 hour a week wage regardless of whether they were able to come into work or not. Rod could only say good things about all of their associates: “They were magnificent!” This natural disaster confirmed that businesses and everyone needs to have an emergency plan, including hard copies of emergency phone numbers including contractors and utilities, etc. Don’t just rely on your cell phones. People should also think ahead to what they could do different now while they have lights and heat, so they can protect their health, homes and property from the next disaster. Following the program, Mr. Waldrip took questions and comments from the attendees, all of who lived here during “the storm of the century.”