Power outage rattles St. Joe

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Power outage rattles St. Joe

By BURTON TAYLOR burtont@npgco.com

Drivers attempting to determine whether to stop or go were probably those most alarmed by the power outages experienced across the city Friday afternoon. Several traffic lights were not working because of two faulty electrical transformers that caused a power outage in the central part of the city from about 1:15 to 2:45 p.m.

UtiliCorp United’s transformers at Messanie and 15th and 36th streets went offline because of a faulty part in the insulator, said Tom Kelley, director of network operations. UtiliCorp employees rushed to get power restored but were alarmed because of the rarity of the situation.

“This hasn’t happened to my knowledge probably in the last two years,” Mr. Kelley said of what he called a relatively widespread incident.

During the outage, several traffic lights and about 3,000 business and residential customers were without power in an area that spread from Frederick Avenue to Mitchell Street and from about Eighth Street to the Belt Highway, Mr. Kelley said. The hourlong power outage covered an area of about 430 city blocks.

Ron Scholtz, St. Joseph Public Works traffic engineer, said he couldn’t remember a time when so many traffic lights were not working but was pleased at the city employees’ reaction.

“I personally was satisfied with the way things went because you didn’t even have to tell people, they just stopped what they were doing and went,” Mr. Scholtz said.

The traffic lights began working as soon as power was restored, said Bob Donan, public works traffic signal supervisor.

“Most everything came back on, but probably more importantly City Hall was dark and making no heat during the outages,” Mr. Donan said.

In addition to traffic lights and City Hall, a number of area schools were also affected. Central High School was without electricity for about 50 minutes, said Vice Principal Jim Browne. Heartland Regional Medical Center also experienced the power outage. However, no patients were at risk, said Kerry Shepherd, media and community relations coordinator.

“Our generators kicked right in,” Ms. Shepherd said. “So, at East they didn’t even realize the power was out and at West the power just blinked.”


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 28, 2001

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