The Storm: Powerful Winds Leave Thousands Without Power

If you were living in Western Wisconsin in 1980, chances are you remember where you were on this date. The July 15th, 1980 storm ranks among the worst natural disasters to hit Wisconsin.

It wasn't a tornado, but a weather phenomenon known as a spearhead echo, or sustained straight line winds of more than 100 miles an hour. It caused $150 million in damage and damaged thousands of businesses and homes. Residents throughout the Eau Claire area were without power for days.

For miles around power lines lay strewn across residential roads, massive transmission towers were brought down in a matter of minutes and crews from northern states power fanned out to assess the damage.

Eighty-five thousand people lost electricity in the heat of the summer and NSP employees started sixteen hour days to get an entire electric system reassembled.

What they did was extraordinary. With the help of crews from across the region, NSP was able to restore power to most everyone in a little less than a week, and repair the major 345 kilovolt transmission line less than two months.

It's an accomplishment employees are still proud of. Pat Watkins, a retired consumer service manager for NSP speaks of "the team work and the pride that came through from the employees and the appreciation from the community."

"Just to see the look on their faces after they'd been out of power for four or five days and then put their power back on, they'd of done anything for you," says Bob Turk, a retired NSP foreman.

Even as the events of July 15, 1980 tore apart Western Wisconsin, the storm itself united NSP employees in teamwork that was nothing short of miraculous.