Lightning causes outages

Published 7:23 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Power outages in downtown Washington during two days were weather related, according to Washington Electric Utilities Director Keith Hardt.

“The outage yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) in the downtown area were both caused by direct lightning strikes to the electrical circuit. We sustained damage to transformers and hardware and insulators on many poles,” Hardt wrote in an email to the Washington Daily News.

 The area affected by the outages is served by WEU’s Second Street feeder, which serves all of East and West Main Street, East and West Second Street, some of West Third Street and most of East Third Street. That area encompasses downtown and the city’s central business district, according to Hardt.

It took WEU crews about 20 minutes to restore power after Tuesday’s outage, and it took about 40 minutes to restore power after Wednesday’s first outage. A second outage Wednesday lasted about 10 minutes.

I do not have a count. We do not keep a tally. I will say that we have had a greater than normal number of heavy storms with very strong lightning,” Hardt replied by email when asked about the number of outages in during June and so far this month.

“We have hardware to minimize the effects of lightning on the system, but we cannot do anything about direct strikes and the damage that occurs,” Hardt wrote.

Wednesday’s first outage occurred during the lunch rush for downtown restaurants.

Michael Hunnings, owner of the Mecca on Market Street, said that outage hurt is lunch business. After power was restored, the restaurant started bringing already prepared food to proper temperatures when the second, shorter outage occurred, Hunnings said. After the second outage, he closed the restaurant early because it was close to its normal closing time.

Hunnings said the outages all but killed his lunch business.

Craig Scichilone, master pizza chef at La Bella’s Slices and Ices on West Main Street, said the first power outage Wednesday happened just as the first customers of the day were being served. Scichilone said the outage hurt the eatery’s lunch business.

After the first outage Wednesday, one restaurant, Grub Brothers Eatery, closed its doors until Wednesday afternoon.

A sign on the restaurant’s front door read: “Power outage open @ 4.”

Four people preparing to enter the restaurant turned away after reading the sign and went to seek food elsewhere.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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