Power outage affects thousands of residents

Alex Mann
Managing Editor

After a noisy evening of storms, much of Borger woke on October 21 to find lingering power outages in different areas of town. While most residents of the high plains are somewhat accustomed to the power outages that accompany passing storms, the noon day power outage that affected thousands was somewhat more of a mystery.

“The storm that came through last night caused some interruptions for customers in south Borger, and also up along Main Street.” Wes Reeves with Xcel energy begins as he explains the recent outages, “That was lightning related, but we also saw some pole damage that we were working on shortly before lunch [Wednesday], and we also had broken lightning arrestor, which is a protective device on poles. It had broken, made contact with wire, and that tripped the circuit again, so we had a pretty large outage right around 11:54 a.m. and it lasted 22 minutes. That affected about 2368 customers in primarily south Borger, but it also feeds areas around Main Street. So they were repairing damage from last night when that second outage occurred.”

While the damage explains the outage itself, Reeves also details why so many were affected when other power outages are limited to a few blocks. “The second outage was affected at the substation level.” He says, “Substations have anywhere from two to three thousand customers served out of each substation, so that's what took place. It was more of what we call a feeder level outage, rather than 10 or 15 [homes] here or there.” Reeves says, “We chalk it up to storm damage and storm conditions that came through last night, and we saw a lot of this around the region as well; a lot of blinks. It wasn't wind damage so much, but a lot of lightning.”

According to Reeves, the duration and scale of outages are due to a variety of factors. “When we see storms come through, a lot of times we just have short duration outages because something may have just blown onto a line, and we have a lot of protective devices on the systems which actually de-energize themselves. That way it protects the system.” Reeves says, “Once we patrol a line and see nothing's there, we can allow it to re-energize. Sometimes those are short duration outages.” However if there are numerous cases of these small scale outages, or if damage is severe, local blocks and individual homes may have to wait longer for power. “Sometimes it takes longer if you have a lot of them scattered around, because we have to send someone to each location, whereas if something happens at a substation, we can send one crew. If there's some debris, they can clear it, and we can get two to three thousand customers back up.” For this reason, even though the outage on Wednesday affected thousands of residents across town, Xcel was able to make substation repairs within 30 minutes to repair the local grid.

Though the thunderstorm season is coming to a close, Reeves says Xcel is already making preparations for the heavy snows expected later this year. It can be difficult, or nearly impossible to be completely protected against power outages, but each time the lights go off, the swift work that goes into repairing the intricate system of flowing power illustrates a miracle of human ingenuity and efficiency. The fact that even lightning strikes and mother nature deprive locals of power for less than a few hours is a testament to the brilliant electrical system we use, and the men and women who work tirelessly to maintain it.