Marmot causes power outage

Steamboat residents, businesses lack electricity for two hours

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— A rodent ventured where it shouldn't have Friday morning and caused a power outage in West Steamboat Springs and areas as far away as Clark. The power outage also took out Comcast cable TV throughout the city.

Jim Chappell of the Yampa Valley Electric Association said a marmot got past a chain-link fence and another barrier before climbing a transformer. The animal encountered a bushing inside the electric cooperative's Airport Substation near Steamboat Springs Airport, causing a high voltage fuse to blow.

The blown fuse resulted in an unbalanced voltage condition on the substation's transformer, Chappell said. That led to an unbalanced condition on several customer feeds leading out of the substation.

The power outage lasted for almost two hours. Most YVEA customers were back on line by 11 a.m., Chappell said.

"The total customers impacted numbered 2,381," he said. "The areas impacted were West Steamboat to al----most Mount Harris, North Steam------------boat to Clark, Strawberry Park and the North Fish Creek Falls area."

The outage af----fected Strawberry Park Elementary School, but receptionist Pam Brandt said classes continued as usual.

Customer service agents at Comcast said they fielded non-stop phone calls from customers inquiring about why they weren't receiving TV service. Some households on the ski area side of the city also had interrupted cable service despite not losing electricity.

Comcast employees said the interruption in service was not related to the company's lines. Most service was restored within 90 minutes of the power outage.

Chappell said cable TV operations rely on boosters to strengthen their signal as they approach the edge of their service areas. The power outage took some of the boosters out of operation.

Chappell said part of the power outage's duration could be attributed to the need for YVEA employees to inspect the transformer for damage. Initial tests indicated no damage to the transformer, but they anticipated that permanent repairs to the high-voltage bushing would be completed by Friday afternoon.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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