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July 27, 2013

Penn Power: Downtown outage ‘a freak thing’

NEW CASTLE — After storms and temperatures in the 90s, New Castle lost power on one of the nicest days of the summer.

“It was a freak thing,” said Chuck Jackson, Penn Power area manager. “We were doing something that we thought would have prevented what happened from happening.”

Jackson said crews were out Thursday afternoon, clearing trees from their right-of-way off Cedar Street in the Mahoningtown area when someone spotted what is known in the business as a “danger tree.” Jackson said he did not know the exact location.

“There was this big, dead tree,” Jackson said. “It was off of our right-of-way but we’ll take those down if we perceive that it could come down and do damage.”

He added, “These were big trees. We had to clear them from the top down.”

Jackson said as workers climbed surrounding trees, inching their way to the “danger tree,” the top of the dead tree fell and landed on a transformer at the Cedar Street substation which acts as a switching station for other power company facilities.

“This all happened before the dead tree was cut,” Jackson said.

The fallen tree top, he said, affected transformers on Cedar and Grant streets and knocked out power to about 5,500 customers. Most of those affected were in downtown New Castle, the West Side, the lower East Side, North Hill and Union Township. He said crews rerouted power by linking lines to other substations.

Jackson reported all power was restored, by about 8 p.m.

“We are fortunate,” Jackson said. “We now have transmission guys here in New Castle.”

He explained three two-man teams are now based in a building on Frenz Drive in Union Township.

“Until fairly recently,” he said, “these guys had to come from Ohio. Now they are local and it helped us to get back on line quickly.”

The outage affected downtown New Castle, including traffic signals and the 911 Center.

“They stayed on using backup generators,” he said. “We were fortunate that yesterday was such a beautiful day,” he said. “It would have been harder on everyone if we were having another 90-degree day.”

Jackson said the situation has been resolved and no problems are anticipated for the weekend.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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