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Power pole fire snarls traffic, cuts electricity

Power pole fire snarls traffic, cuts electricity

  • Updated

A power pole caught fire on Highway 87 East between Lockwood and Billings on Thursday morning, snarling the morning commute and cutting power to several hundred customers in Lockwood.

The pole caught fire at about 8 a.m. near Metra RV, 850 Highway 87 E., just east of the Dick Johnston Bridge over the Yellowstone River.

It wasn't immediately clear why the pole caught fire, although NorthWestern Energy officials thought it was weather-related.

"We are suspecting some sort of weather-related issue," said Butch Larcombe, NorthWestern spokesman, in an email. "There was a fire on the pole, which can be caused by heavy rain and one of the lines on the pole fell across the road. It’s unlikely we will know what exactly happened."

Traffic backed up more than a half-mile while the road was shut down and crews worked to repair the line. Law enforcement directed traffic onto Interstate 90 until the roadway was reopened at about 11 a.m.

Several commercial customers and several hundred residential customers lost power, Larcombe said, but it was restored by 2 p.m.

The outage also affected Coburn Hills, where several television and radio systems are located. The systems ran by generator power until about 11:30 a.m., Larcombe said.

The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office and Montana Highway Patrol assisted with traffic control.

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