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Power Fails at Papers Outage Plagues 4,200 Buildings

by Ramona Smith Daily News Staff Writer

For most of the 4,200 buildings hit by a power failure around Center City yesterday, the problem was over in a wink and an hour-and-a-half.

But the Daily News/Inquirer Building, at Broad and Callowhill streets, took a hit of double trouble.

Not only was its power knocked out by the 9:53 a.m. Peco cable failure, but a backup cable also failed, leaving the newspapers struggling on emergency power for most of the day.

"We're used to deadlines and adversity," said veteran Daily News reporter Ron Goldwyn. "I'm saying that with the lights dim and my phone not working. But I feel confident that there will be a Daily News tomorrow."

Goldwyn and other reporters at both papers shared phones and abandoned their computers. A few veteran reporters dusted off their old typewriters.

Finally, the rest of the lights went on just before 4:30 p.m., after Peco hooked up another power line and brought in emergency generators.

And the power of the press?

"It's still all-powerful," said Daily News Editor Zack Stalberg, as systems began booting up last night to work on today's edition.

The problem - which Peco is still trying to analyze - broke out next to the newspaper building in a manhole at the corner of 15th and Callowhill. A 13,000-volt cable started throwing off sparks and smoke under the street, possibly from cracking, water seepage or construction damage, said Peco spokesman Michael Wood.

The cable failure also triggered a warning signal to Peco's Callowhill Substation at 11th and Callowhill, automatically tripping off some of the circuit breakers to protect equipment.

At that point, 4,200 customers ranging from high-rises to homes lost power, scattered mainly through the area from Girard Avenue south to Race Street.

At One Frankin Town, a 20-story apartment building at 18th and Callowhill streets, the power outtage caused water service to go out on the upper floors. "We had a backup system for the major systems here," said Jean Choizi, desk clerk at the 400-unit building. "So there were no serious problems."

Across the street, Franklin Town Two, a senior citizens complex, experienced about a three-hour outage. Temperatures inside were somewhat warmer than normal but caused no serious problems for the residents.

By 11:20 a.m., only 11 buildings - Franklin Town, Logan Square East and Parktown Place - were still without power. And 10 of those 11 were back by 1:10 p.m.

That left only the home of the two Philly newspapers. The problem: a Peco backup line, intended to ship power to the building in just such an emergency, also was out of commission on 16th Street south of Vine.

Finally, Peco tapped the building into another circuit and hauled in two trailer-size generators.

-- (, July 11, 2000

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