Blown fuse knocks out power to 15,000 county residents

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A blown fuse at the Lovers Lane substation briefly knocked out power to roughly 15,000 customers of the Elizabethton Electric System (EES) Wednesday morning, according to EES and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials.
   EES General Manager Phil Isaacs said the TVA advised him that a fuse had been blown while TVA personnel were making upgrades in the substation's relay house.
   "It took out five of our eight substations," said Isaacs.
   The blown fuse subsequently tripped a breaker, knocking out power at the Lovers Lane substation and four other substations, leaving approximately 15,000 customers without power for 6 to 8 minutes, Isaacs said.
   The brief power loss knocked out traffic signals around the city, and set off fire and burglar alarms at some businesses.
   The EES substations of West Side, Hatcher Lane, Watauga, and Hampton went down with blackouts occurring from the county's west end to the Roan Mountain area, Isaacs said.
   The TVA upgrades are part of the extension of a 69,000 volt transmission line to provide additional electric power to residents in the Pandora community of Butler.
   "A new line is supposed to be swung in from Pandora," said Don Curd, project supervisor at the Lovers Lane substation. "They are supposed to swing that in August."
   The 161,000 volt line feeds the system's other substations at a reduced voltage causing the lost power at the other substations, Isaacs explained.
   "We were en route when it happened but their engineers were on hand and already in the process of getting power back on," he said.
   Randy Musick, manager of the Elizabethton Municipal Airport, said the airport did not have to activate its emergency generators due to the brevity of the power outage.
   "We have a backup generator to back up power to our building, pump fuel, and operate radio announcements," said Musick. He added the airport's generator was purchased shortly after the 1998 blizzard that left thousands of county residents without power for days and some in the dark for weeks.
   "A lot of the rescue services was being staged here with the Blackhawk helicopters and we couldn't pump fuel to them," recalled Musick. "After that, we decided we had to get something in here."
   Curd said no one was injured and no equipment was damaged in the incident.
   Isaacs said TVA would conduct an investigation into the exact cause of what tripped the breaker and provide his office with the report.