Over 6,300 households were suddenly without power early on the coldest morning of the year in the Bitterroot Valley on Thursday, February 6.

Northwestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe said the problem started with a broken power line that fed the residents served by Ravalli Electric Co-op on the east side of the Bitterroot river.

"At about 6 this morning we had a problem with the transmission line that runs down the east side of the Bitterroot Valley," Larcombe said. "It's a 69 kilovolt line and it kind of tripped off. We discovered later that there was a small section of line just south of Stevensville where the wire just came loose and hit the ground, and kind of shorted the whole thing out."

Northwestern Energy Spokesman Butch Larcombe

Ravalli Electric Co-op spokesman Jim Maunder said due to the outage, 4,700 households were without power for almost two hours in temperatures that ranged from -15 to -25 degrees. Maunder said his company also dealt with another power outage that morning.

"We had a distribution line that burned down between Meridian and Bear Creek," Maunder said. "Because of that fire, we had another 75 member households that were out on the west side of Highway 93. That outage lasted a full three hours before we could get it fixed."

Ravalli Electric Co-op Spokesman Jim Maunder

Larcombe said about 1,200 Northwestern Energy households were affected by the outage, and power was restored to their homes.

School was cancelled at Lone Rock and in Stevensville on Thursday, and classes in Corvallis were delayed by two hours due to the cold and power outage.

Record low temperatures overnight also led to calls to the Missoula City Fire Department because sprinkler pipes burst at both the Doubletree Hotel and at the Cracker Barrel restaurant, setting off automatic alarms.