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Bad connection sends Dover into darkness

Special to The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO

Shoppers leave a dark Dover Mall on Wednesday after the city lost power. A faulty connection caused the outage.

By JAMES MERRIWEATHER Dover Bureau reporter


An apparently faulty connection at a substation shut down Dover's electrical system about 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, leaving 19,000 residential and commercial customers without power for up to 4 1/2 hours.

The outage forced hundreds of gamblers from Dover Downs' slots parlor, snarled traffic on U.S. 13 and prompted untold numbers of workers to flee from dark, sweltering businesses and government offices before normal closing times.

"We have to clean up, and everything is electric," Joyce Argoe said about 4 p.m. Argoe, co-owner of Market Sub and Steak in downtown Dover, and three employees scrambled to complete the sandwich shop's closing routine without the benefit of electricity.

By 5 p.m., power had been restored to much of the city's service area, with priority given to the West Dover industrial and downtown areas and traffic signals and businesses along U.S. 13. A dispatcher said electricity was restored to the rest of the city's customers, except for a few homes, by about 8 p.m.

Robin Christiansen, president of Dover City Council, said the problem was traced to an interconnect between Conectiv and the city system at a substation on State College Road. Conectiv on a routine basis passes along power to the Dover system. The city bought the electricity from the multistate PJM power grid.

"Under an agreement [with suppliers], we buy electricity off the grid when it's cheaper than operating our plant," Christiansen said.

Spokesman Ted Caddell said Conectiv's customers were not affected by the outage. He said Conectiv personnel were monitoring grid activity and dispatched two repair crews even before the city asked for help.

"We were feeding their system," Caddell said, "but our system is fine going into that substation. There seems to be a problem that fans back into their system."

Within minutes of the shutdown, police officers were posted at major intersections to direct traffic, easing to some degree what might have been a nightmarish rush hour in Dover and adjoining areas.

"The cops directed me, and I didn't have any trouble," said Carolyn Pryor of Dover. Pryor, an office worker at Sunroc Corp. in east Dover, drove through several inoperative traffic signals to Governor's Avenue and Loockerman Street downtown.

Kent General Hospital experienced no problem from the outage.

A switchboard operator at Dover Downs said the slot machines were back in business by 6 p.m.

According to a spokesman at Dover Air Force Base's weather office, the temperature was 82 degrees and the relative humidity was 77 percent when the electrical system crashed.

Reach James Merriweather at 678-4273 or send an e-mail.

-- (, August 03, 2000

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