Power outage leaves 600 customers in the dark
More than 600 faithful ATCO Electric customers, including those in McLennan, were left in the dark for several hours Feb. 1 after an insulator failed on a power pole between the town and Donnelly.
All of our customers east of Donnelly, including McLennan and Kathleen rural were affected by the power outage, said Larry Tutt, district supervisor for ATCO Electric in Peace River.
The lights went out for residents and businesses between the hours of 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to allow ATCO Electric crews time to correct the problem, which was identified by a customer at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Other customers, however, felt the affects of the power outage for a much longer period of time due to the nature of the problem, which occurred on one of ATCO Electrics three-phase poles.
Tutt said the end result was a blackout earlier in the afternoon for many rural customers receiving power from the affected phase of the pole.
It certainly caused some voltage disruptions with customers prior to 3 p.m., Tutt confirmed, adding that an undisclosed number of calls were fielded by ATCO Electric staff throughout the early and late afternoon hours.
ATCO Electric staff responded to the scene immediately after receiving the call and closed off the perimeter of the affected site before additional responders arrived shortly before 3 p.m. to help isolate the live circuit.
He said the failed insulator was a rare occurrence in that it caused power to run directly down the guide wires to the ground a serious concern for ATCO Electric staff.
We dont know why the insulator failed. What we do know is that it created a very hazardous situation to the public. Fortunately, people realized the tremendous potential for the hazard to extend well beyond the original point of contact on the ground, he said.
The point of contact is best defined as the location where a disrupted electrical current enters the ground, which in this case was the submerged guide wires.
Power doesnt always necessarily go into the ground in a straight line. What often occurs is that it spreads out over the ground in a radiant (circular) pattern, said Tutt, comparing it to the same visual effect of dropping a rock in water.
One customer to voice their frustration over the power disruption was McLennan Liquor Store Owner Ann Marie Servant, who was forced to close her doors to the public between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. that afternoon.
Personally, I wasnt very impressed about the whole thing, but what can you do? she asked. It would have been nice to at least receive a courtesy call in advance from ATCO Electric.
Servant, who like many others was at the mercy of the Alberta power distribution company that afternoon, said the worst part of the entire ordeal was the timing.
Fridays are generally our busiest day of the week with everybody getting ready for the weekend. Its money out of our pockets in terms of lost sales, she said.
For others, it was money that never made it to their pockets, like many of the ATB Financial customers who were hoping to cash their month-end paycheques prior to the start of the weekend.
We ran across a few customers who were quite upset that we were closed, said Customer Service Supervisor Carrie Bartel. Unfortunately, we are required by law to close our doors in the event of a power outage.
Bartel said staff instructed some of their customers to try the Falher ATB Financial Branch as an alternative, but admits that just wasnt feasible for some residents who didnt have access to a vehicle.
Much like Servant, Bartel was not impressed with the reaction of the local power company.
They (ATCO Electric) knew the power was going to be off for a specific period of time and yet they didnt even have the decency to phone anybody. All it would have taken was a call to the town office or one or two businesses. It doesnt take long for word to get around in a small town, she said.
Tutt says ATCO Electric is sympathetic about the concerns of their valued customers and would like to apologize for any inconvenience which arose as a result of the Feb. 1 incident.