January 25, 2007

Ice, High Winds Cause Brief Power Outage Across Region

Winter weather took its toll on Scotland County’s electricity on January 17th, but the outage was short lived.

With reports of power losses nearing a week in length in southern parts of the state, local electric customers got off relatively easy when they lost power beginning at approximately 10:00 a.m.

Ice-burdened power lines combined with windy conditions were blamed for service problems for Northeast Missouri Power, the region’s main electricity supplier. The problems reportedly occurred near Baring, causing outages across northeast Missouri and southern Iowa.

Kevin White, manager of engineering and operations for the Palmyra power supplier said the problem occurred at 10:02 a.m. “Galloping lines” were blamed for the problem that forced Northeast to lose service in the region until 11:45 a.m.

White explained galloping lines as a contact between two or more lines which is caused by winds. The galloping line occurred on Northeast’s service line near Baring. Ice on the lines weighed down two of the three service lines in this region. Winds then whipped two of the lines together. White said during normal conditions there is more than sufficient room between the lines, but the combination of weather conditions led to the problem.

When the lines contacted, it threw breakers open, effecting service from Novelty all the way to Milton, IA. The provider lost service to the city of Memphis as well as Tri-County Electric’s substation in Memphis, Lewis County Cooperative’s substation at Baring and Southern Iowa Cooperative’s substation at Roscoe.

White said Northeast Power mobilized work crews that were sent to the scene of the galloping lines. Once the problem was identified the crews had to reopen switches on both sides of the problem area. The weather conditions hampered these efforts.

After learning the outage problems could be lengthy, the city of Memphis light plant started the first engine for generating power around 11:00 a.m. This brought the light plant back online with power and started the process of generating enough power to run the entire town.

By 11:30 a.m. the city had electricity restored as a total of three generators were running at the light plant.

“This process takes a little time as the generators build up power, we put on more circuits,” said Superintendent Mike Ahland. “So we turn on parts of the city in increments as the power builds up, ultimately getting the whole town back up and running.”

Other parts of Scotland County were not as fortunate. Areas served by Tri-County Electric Cooperative, which also receives its power from Northeast, were without power the length of their supplier’s outage, a little more than two hours.

That list included the Scotland County R-I School District. Superintendent Dave Shalley said the district considered closing for the remainder of the day, but the loss of electricity would have made it too difficult to notify parents and guardians of the early release of students so the district rode out the downtime.

The Memphis light plant stayed online for approximately 3 and a half hours, finally shutting down at 3:00 p.m. The city experienced a brief outage at that time as the city switched back to Northeast Power.

The local power system escaped the ice and snow unscathed. Superintendent Dave Kittle stated the city of Memphis had no downed lines or other service problems related to the weather.

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