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Bitter cold temperatures lead to power outages

The electronic sign at Lehman Floor Covering, on the south side of Huntington, flashes 7 degrees below zero on Friday morning, Jan. 16, at about 10:15. The cold temperatures were responsible for a major power outage  in Huntington County.
Photo by Scott Trauner.

Bitter cold temperatures Thursday evening led to power outages for more than 7,000 Duke Energy customers in Huntington County, forcing some people from their homes to a temporary shelter at the local Salvation Army.

The outages began just before 8 p.m. when some transmission line utility poles broke, explains Angeline Protegere, a spokesperson for Duke Energy. Transmission power lines are major carriers of power and connect to power substations.

“Most likely one pole broke and caused damage to others,” she says, adding the company is not sure just what caused the first pole to break.

Initially, 7,200 customers were affected but for many it was a brief loss of power.
“Of the 7,200, all but 2,050 were restored momentarily,” Protegere says. “Equipment automatically reroutes power to restore some customers until repairs can be made.” Another 350 customers had their power restored by 11:30 p.m., leaving about 1,700 still in the dark.

Crews from six different districts were brought in to help restore power and speed up restoration. Efforts to make repairs to poles and lines, however, were also hampered by the subzero temperatures.

“The cold affected other equipment,” Protegere says. “Conductors (power lines) contracted and fell and a switch that enables you to reroute power was not operating properly.”
Just before midnight, transmission conductors were damaged near North Manchester, resulting in a total of about 4,600 outages.

“It just so happened that the same substation affecting the 1,700 customers in Huntington County was also involved in the outage in North Manchester,” Protegere explains.

Power was restored to all but 1,300 of those customers by 3:30 a.m. Friday with the remainder restored just before 3 p.m., Protegere says.

“If any customers are still out of service, we urge them to contact us at 800-343-3525,” she adds.