"Gizmo" cuts power to 7500

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NIPSCO malfunction kills power on U.S. 30 and south

By Dave Orrick / Staff Writer

A malfunctioning electrical gizmo led to a patchwork of power outages from Merrillville to Valparaiso south of U.S. 30 Wednesday afternoon, according to the Northern Indiana Public Service Co.

Around 1:45 p.m., a circuit at a NIPSCO substation east of Southlake Mall "malfunctioned," causing an automatic shutdown of much of the power grid for at least half an hour, NIPSCO spokesman Tom Stevens said.

More than 7,500 homes or businesses lost power, and countless shoppers, motorists and office workers were affected.

The affected area included roughly 3,000 NIPSCO customers from U.S. 30 south to 93rd Avenue and from Taft Street in Merrillville east to Indiana 2 in Valparaiso, Stevens said.

Several traffic signals stopped functioning along U.S. 30.

An additional 4,629 customers of Kankakee Valley REMC from Winfield and Lakes of the Four Seasons to southwestern Porter County also lost power, spokesman Stephen VanderWerf said.

No serious injuries were believed to have been reported, but Hobart paramedics responded to at least one traffic accident outside the mall after the signal went off, Hobart Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Hoskins said.

Power was fully restored by 3:05 p.m., according to both utilities.

Because of the intricacies of the local power grid, not all buildings were affected.

But plenty were.

Five people were trapped in an elevator at J.C. Penney minutes after the power outage hit Southlake Mall.

"It was totally dark and store managers pried the elevator doors open," said Lana Karski, a store supervisor.

Three adults and two small children were freed from the elevator, Karski said. No one was injured.

The power outage also left 1,800 area real estate brokers without the Multiple Listing Service, a compilation of homes for sale in Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties, and parts of Illinois.

"It's certainly an inconvenience," said Nancy Smith, executive vice president of the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors at 8680 Broadway in Merrillville.

Brokers access the listings by modem. Even after the power came back on, the listing service was still down. Other businesses reported similar problems with their phone networks.

The outage left Southlake Mall stores in the dark for about an hour, mall manager Troy Fisher said.

"It was totally quiet in here," said a store employee who asked not to be identified. "I'd go home if the lights were out, but shoppers just stood in the hall."

The mall's network of skylights provided adequate natural light for anyone who simply wanted to window shop during the outage, Fisher said.

He said the mall's tenants were forced to usher customers into the corridors and to lock their doors or lower their security gates.

Some stores, including a couple of jewelry retailers, could not lower their electric gates because of the power failure. But mall security officers were out in force, and extra Hobart police officers were stationed around the mall.

Several would-be shoppers stood outside Kohl's department store, which was closed.

"I bet the store employees are having fun just waiting and wondering if they can go home," said another customer, who wouldn't give her name because she was supposed to be at work instead of shopping.

"Good old NIPSCO," she said sarcastically.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 10, 2000


We're on the same wavelength, Martin. I was ready to post the same article.

Post Tribune, Gary, Indiana


Select "News"

-- Lee Maloney (leemaloney@hotmail.com), February 10, 2000.

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