Transformer Crash Leaves Thousands In The Hub City In The Dark - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/16/08

Transformer Crash Leaves Thousands In The Hub City In The Dark

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Power is back across most of the Hub City after a lightning strike left nearly all of Lubbock Power and Lights 73,000 customers in the dark.

"I've never heard anything like it before," Angela Cuellar said.  Around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Cuellar's family awoke to sounds from the West Texas sky.

"It was just thundering and lighting and the next thing you knew the power went off," Cuellar said.  To get a better look Cuellar says she went to the window of her East Lubbock home.

"The lightening was so bright that you could just basically see the whole yard," Cuellar said.

Some of the lighting Cuellar saw stuck the LP&L Cooke Power plant. It hit a transformer, causing part of it to explode.  "We had some witness say a lightning bolt stuck that transformer just over my shoulder and the lightening strike lasted approximately 15-30 seconds." Chris Sims with Lubbock Power and Light said.

Sims says the power system is designed to withstand lightening strikes. But only strikes that last between two and three seconds long.

"You can't design a system for that kind of voltage and of course it was too much for the system, so it protected itself and shut down," Sims said.  LP&L powers up to 17 sub-stations, which caused places like Lubbock EMS to lose electricity.

"We were on generator power for about 45 minutes and then we lost complete power to our work stations. It was about 15-20 minutes," Lubbock EMS Communications Chief Renee Sandefur, said. Sandefur says during that time the phone lines when down. Luckily, Sandefur says no 9-1-1 calls came in. However, if needed Sandefur says their cell phones were ready, just like at other dispatchers at Lubbock County Sheriff's Office.

"This morning the Sheriff's office was down, so they were contacting us by cell phone and then later on this morning we went down and we had to contact the sheriff's office by cell phone," Sandefur said.

By about 8 a.m. Saturday, the power was back on across most of Lubbock. Sims says thanks to electricity from competitor Excel Energy.

"We have the capability to buy enough energy for our customers," Sims said. Sims says customers will not have to pay extra for LP&L to purchase energy.  NewsChannel 11 has also learned nearly 200 Excel customers also lost power from the storm. We are told nearly all had power back on by late Saturday afternoon.

The power outage and threat of flooding also caused the City of Lubbock to activate its Emergency Operations Center. The center was operational for about two hours, until the storm passed and power was restored across the city.

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