Power problems close middle school

Impacts of Saturday's lightning storm linger


The ramifications from an electrical storm Saturday night were still being felt Monday in Steamboat Springs.

"This was a freak storm that came in," said Jim Chappell, Yampa Valley Electric Association spokesman. "It really stressed our system, as it would any utility."

There was no power at Steamboat Springs Middle School, and students with parental permission were being allowed to leave.

Other students are staying at the school until parents can be contacted. The school district's phone system is not functioning, so parents who want to pick up their children should go to the school.

Chappell said there were multiple lightning strikes on YVEA power lines Saturday night. Many businesses reported surge protectors being destroyed. At the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a surge protector exploded and caught on fire and several outlets were not functioning properly.

Pilot Office Supply, Ace Hardware and Wal-Mart reported a steady stream of customers buying surge protectors.

"We had five surge protectors and they were all gone by 8:30 a.m.," said Diane Herrick at Pilot Office Supply. "We've had dozens of calls since. We're trying to get as many in here as we can."

Jim Warren manages the electrical department for Ace at the Curve. He said Ace sold out of surge protectors by noon Sunday.

"I still have people coming in," Warren said.

Some people brought in their old surge protectors that had been fried. Customers told him the protectors saved their electronics.

"They did what they were supposed to do," Warren said. "They're a good investment and they work."

Paul Pirnat, assistant manager at Wal-Mart, said his store still had surge protectors in stock, but that they were selling quickly. He also reported people coming in to buy televisions that had been "fried" in the power surge.

Chappell said the lightning strikes caused a surge in voltage and then, once several power lines were down, the was an "undervoltage" that created outages around the city Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"Any time a severe lightning storm rolls across the area, there's not a lot you can do other than shut your system down," Chappell said. "You can't believe the amount of calls we have had. Some have been very pleasant and others would like to take me out and hang me."

Chappell said YVEA was delivering normal voltage Monday morning and that power had been restored to all areas. But the utility was still working to repair damage to its substation across for the Steamboat Springs Airport.

He said there could be brief outages today as repairs are completed.

"There is a very strong possibility that we could have some blinks in power," he said.


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