Friday, August 15, 2014

Power outage caused by lightning

Idaho Power says redundant line would have prevented blackout

Express Staff Writer

    A power outage Tuesday evening in Ketchum and Sun Valley—which lasted about two-and-a-half hours—was caused by lightning striking a pole between Hailey and Ketchum, according to Lynette Berriochoa, corporate communications leader for Idaho Power Co.
    The outage effectively shut down business in Ketchum during the dinner rush, which was without power from 5:35 p.m. until just before 8 p.m. The sporadic storms experienced throughout the Wood River Valley for the last several weeks were in full force Tuesday, with heavy rain, lightning strikes and strong winds up to 50 miles per hour punctuating the evening.
    On Tuesday, Idaho Power could not pinpoint the exact cause of the blackout, according to spokesman Kevin Winslow, despite searching up to 20 miles of lines near the Wood River Valley substation north of Hailey. Winslow said crews often can’t trace the source of an outage during or immediately after a storm.
    Idaho Power now believes an instant shut-off mechanism was activated when lightning hit the power pole. Crews re-energized the line at 7:58 p.m., when they discovered no line damage, Winslow said.
    Berriochoa said crews found some blackened cross-arms late Tuesday night—attributed to a lightning strike—on the 138-kilovolt line between Hailey and Ketchum. She said there was also an hours-long outage near the Hagerman substation when a microburst in the system knocked out eight poles, attributed to the storms in southern Idaho.
    Winslow said parts of Hagerman, Gooding, Bliss and King Hill were affected by the Hagerman outage, which started just before 4 p.m.
    A redundant power line from Hailey to Ketchum—for which Idaho Power is in the process of seeking approval—could have prevented an interruption in service in this case, Berriochoa said.
    “An example from Tuesday involved the two redundant transmission lines south of Hailey (one runs to Hagerman, the other to Shoshone),” Berriochoa said in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express. “At one point, one line tripped off due to the extensive storm activity. But the other line was able to carry the load for customers along both lines, avoiding an outage.”
    Sun Valley Resort was prepared with generators, according to Jack Sibbach, director of public relations and marketing. He said the resort had some lights in the Lodge and were still able to feed guests. The Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s performance that night wasn’t compromised, he said.
    “They played without speakers,” he said. “It sounded great.”
    The symphony’s executive director, Jennifer Teisinger, said the orchestra musicians couldn’t see their music as well and were colder on stage, due to the lack of lighting.
    “They were phenomenal in their perseverance and willingness to play in adverse conditions,” she said. “It felt intimate with the audience like we were all in it together.”

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