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Two power outages affect thousands of NIPSCO customers

By Kristi O'Brien and Tim Zorn / Staff Writers

Two separate power outages Wednesday morning knocked out service to around 13,000 NIPSCO customers, closed three schools and caused major headaches for many morning commuters.

The first outage occurred around 5:30 a.m. when a section of 34,500-volt NIPSCO line came down across the South Shore tracks near the Miller station, interrupting train service for about three hours and cutting power to around 3,300 Gary/Miller-area Northern Indiana Public Service Co. customers.

Nearly 5,500 South Shore customers and seven of eight rush-hour trains were affected.

The broken wires dropped across the tracks, and the South Shore's power was out between Ogden Dunes and Gary.

Power was restored to customers around 7:30 a.m. and the trains began running again around 8:40 a.m.

Larry Graham, of NIPSCO, said the outage occurred when "a coupling that had been used previously to repair a section of the wire pulled apart, causing the wire to fall."

The second outage occurred around 8:30 a.m. when a 69,000-volt line snapped, knocking out power to around 10,000 customers and causing a traffic accident.

Graham said the line, which was damaged during a previous storm, fell to the ground, causing a short-circuit.

"It finally broke (Wednesday), and when it fell and hit the ground in shorted out," Graham said. "That caused circuit breakers on three other transmission circuits to open."

Graham said the damaged line affected three substations, serving Hobart, Portage and Valparaiso.

In Portage, the power outage contributed to a three-vehicle accident that included a school bus. No children on the bus were injured.

Portage police said the traffic signal at U.S. 6 and Swanson Road was off because of the outage when cars driven by Philip O'Quinn, 46, and Richard W. Lee, 59, both of Hobart, collided at 8:26 a.m.

O'Quinn's car then hit a Portage Township school bus that had stopped at the intersection. The bus was taking children to Central Elementary School.

Paramedics checked all 52 children on the bus and found no injuries, Central Principal Frank Vernallis said.

O'Quinn and two passengers in his car were treated at Portage Community Hospital after they complained of pain.

The outages also forced three Union Township schools to cancel classes. John Simatovich Elementary School was the only Union Township school that had power and conducted classes Wednesday morning.

Superintendent Ric Frataccia said classes in the other schools were canceled, and students were bused home between 11 and 11:30 a.m.

"We let out because by the time the power was about to be on, the kitchen managers at the three schools said they didn't have enough time to prepare lunch to feed the kids," he said.

Power was restored to all customers around 10:15 a.m., Graham said.

Affected areas included most of Hobart from Lake George south to just north of U.S. 30, the south side of Portage and south of and along U.S. 6, he said.

-- Doris (, September 07, 2000

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