08/22/07 — Drought, storms might have put out lights today

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Drought, storms might have put out lights today

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 22, 2007 1:45 PM

Equipment failure put more than 1,000 power customers in the dark about 9:30 this morning along Berkeley Boulevard and parts of Central Heights Road and from Cashwell Drive and Spence Avenue to Royall Avenue.

Progress Energy Operations Manager Keith Westbrook attributed the outage to lightning arresters that failed on utility poles at the intersection of Berkeley Boulevard and Cashwell Drive.

The arresters are designed to absorb lightning strikes. Sometimes repeated hits wear them down and create hairline fractures, Westbrook said. Tuesday night's severe lightning storm likely led to the breakdown, he added.

The problem is something that cannot be monitored, he said. The fractures are so small that they are virtually undetectable.

Westbrook added that the problem can surface if a long dry spell, such as the weeks Wayne has gone through without rain during the last month, is followed by a storm like Tuesday night's.

When the equipment fails, that causes feed circuit breakers in the substation to shut down to keep from damaging the entire system, he said. That likely limited the outage to the area surrounding the poles.

Progress Energy senior lineman Carlton Hinson and line technician Steve Lewis, who were working at the scene off Berkeley, said that the arresters are a sort of fault catcher system -- they will explode first instead of blowing the rest of the equipment.

Lewis said Progress Energy workers first had to go around the city to find out where the problem originated. The company had a half dozen workers in the field this morning working on the problem.

"We just heard a couple of pops and saw some smoke coming out," said Mike Wilkens of John S. Clark General Contractors, whose company is working on the former Litchfield Theater site near the failed arresters.

Power was restored about 45 minutes after the arresters were located.