Firefighters stand by Sunday night as a fire burns at an electrical substation near the intersection of Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40. An explosion at the substation caused a citywide power outage.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Firefighters stand by Sunday night as a fire burns at an electrical substation near the intersection of Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40. An explosion at the substation caused a citywide power outage.

Explosion blacks out Steamboat

Residents report flash of light from outage caused by animal



Electrical explosion

— An animal caused a Sunday night explosion at Yampa Valley Electric Association's Mount Werner substation, sending an enormous flash of light into the sky and knocking out power for about an hour across Steamboat Springs and much of Routt County.

Larry Covillo, YVEA president and general manager, said a small- to medium-sized animal got into the Mount Werner substation and caused an explosion. That spread into what Covillo called "a big arcing fire," which went through YVEA relays and affected power running through the company's substation on the west end of town.

"A critter got into our substation. We can't tell what it is right now," Covillo said at the station Sunday night.

Covillo said he did not know what part of the substation the animal got into, and that YVEA probably would not be certain what happened until the end of the holiday weekend Tuesday.

"We know where the animal pieces are, but we're not sure whether it got in one of the transformers or one of the (other pieces of equipment)," Covillo said.

Technicians restored power to most service areas by 11 p.m. or shortly thereafter.

The outage left the city entirely dark on the eve of Memorial Day.

Law enforcement officers were dispatched to a variety of calls during the blackout - including reports of fireworks and unruly juveniles - and provided traffic control at busy intersections on U.S. Highway 40.

"It actually went pretty smoothly, considering there was no power between here and Stagecoach," Steamboat Springs police Sgt. Gerard Geis said. "Nothing major - outside of the substation blowing up."

Sgt. Miles DeYoung of the Routt County Sheriff's Office characterized the outage as ultimately a "minor event."

"Everything's up and running - other than a few burglar alarms that automatically tripped when the power came back on. We didn't have anything significant," DeYoung said late Sunday night.

Flashes in the sky from the outage could be seen as far west as Milner and left many residents with a story to tell.

"We heard sounds," said Steamboat resident John Schoen, who lives near the substation. "We opened the deck door, and we saw all of Mount Werner lit up, kind of like fireworks."

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Lt. Michael Arce was off duty and at his home near the substation and went to the fire department immediately following the explosion.

"My lights started flickering in the house," Arce said. "I stepped out on my balcony, looked outside and figured it was the transformer. I drove over to make sure everyone was OK and wondered what was going on."


SkiTownUSA 7 years ago

Rockie: Checked to see if your racoon is missing?


mountaingirl33 7 years ago

I live just a block from the transformer; it was unreal watching the entire thing!!

At first we did not know what was going on... it was intensely bright and sparks and very loud humming & popping and buzzing was all you could see & hear.

Handyman is right the stars were amazing!!

So was the explosion!!


Hadleyburg_Press 7 years ago

And here I thought the massive flash was my old friend using too much lighter fluid on his barbecue again...


freerider 7 years ago

wow ...thought I was in Alaska watching the night sky....


jhr2000 7 years ago

With the radio stations down (no generator?), there was no way to inform the public of the emergency.


OnTheBusGus 7 years ago

handyman, I agree about the stars, that was awesome! Haven't seen so many since camping in N Routt. I was at the Indy movie too. It did black out right at the climax. I might have to go back today to see if I can step into the theatre for the last 5 minutes or forever be in suspense... at least until it comes out on dvd.


weststmbtres 7 years ago

I could see the flashes of light in the sky all the way over in Steamboat II. Must have been some explosion.


bella 7 years ago

I think it was Smoothy the hairless fox...


jturbo 7 years ago

Was this Dave Kings (Tripple Crown) way of telling Steamboat what will happen to the town if the city does not abide by his requests for more fields etc? Guess what Mr King the lights did come back on and the city was just fine. Too bad for the small animal (Tripple Crown) that didn't survive. Steamboat WILL SURVIVE with out you!!!!


rockie29 7 years ago

Wow, what a nite of events! I can't believe an animal caused all this, it is like something from a movie!


MtnWarlock 7 years ago

rockie29, Most of the time things like this happen; it is usually a small animal that is the culprit. Weather elements like lightning and intense wind are others! It just goes to show us that our system of things is not always safe as we think from Mother Nature! It also reminds me how dependant we are in electricity! Our electric service here is great and so are our emergency services. This could have been worse scenario than it was! Oh, and keep up the commentary on the record, we need to laugh more at ourselves at times! Have a good day!

jturbo, Please, this is not even about TC of King! I see your point and feel your frustration though! Have a good one!


handyman 7 years ago

Did anyone look up during the blackout? The sky was amazing. With no city lights and a clear sky, we had an unobstucted view of the stars. We don't usually get a view like that unless we're away from the city in a tent. What a treat. On the bad side, our neighbors were at the movie and it blacked out for the last five minutes of the new Indy movie. What timing!


Ed Miklus 7 years ago

Nice to read some lighthearted blogs and see that Steamboat sense of humor emerge. Probably was Harrison Ford's way of getting you to double dip the movie!


colowoodsman 7 years ago

Stars at night- what a concept-now you know what I mean about tourism destroying SS. I can also remember being able to smell pine trees at the Space Station and driving through town with no traffic lights. Isn't progress wonderful?


id04sp 7 years ago

Geez. I hope this wasn't somebody trying to get in to steal discarded vegetables or something. That's all we need . . .

How sad that you all never see the stars because of the city lights. You ought to move to the mountains in Colorado . . . oh, yeah, you moved to the mountains and then want to live in a city. As the South Park kids might say, "Dude, that's pretty f######-up right there."


lizzyevil12 7 years ago

ya I live in near saddle back, near milner. the lights here just serged out so I went up stairs, thats when I noticed steamboat. it was like a Chrismes show but only ten times cool. it was amazing. I don't live in town so I can normaly see the sky vary well, but when most of routt county went out I saw the sky clear than ever. it was vary cool.


SkiTownUSA 7 years ago

I sure hope the reports of fireworks were people mistaking the actual event for a large firework. I know that every time someone lights a firework or two at even a reasonable hour, 6 different idiots call it in.


sbsmon 7 years ago

colowoodsman, if you haven't noticed, the growth is not just happening in Steamboat. My parents bought a ten acre piece of property on the river surrounded by farms back east 35 years ago. You could only see one house from their back porch at that time. Now their property is surrounded by houses with more springing up every year. There's a chemical factory on the other side of the river now that's lit up like a christmas tree 24/7. What used to be country property all over the United States is now caught up in urban sprawl. I've been watching Steamboat grow for 20 years. When I look at what is happening elsewhere in the country Steamboat looks pretty damn good to me.


stompk 6 years, 12 months ago

Whatever animal it was, had to get over that security fence.

Was it a bird?

It put off all kinds of cool colors too.

Maybe it was a Phoenix.


hubiem 7 years ago


i was thinking the same thing that sbsmom just said. growth happens. my parents lived in a house that had no close neighbors when i was born. then houses started springing up all around it. now they have houses and right beside them right behind them. thank god nobody put in a trailer next to them. that kind of stuff isn't regulated in most places like it is here in steamboat. where i grew up there were multiple chemical plants and other big industrial plants. you were lucky to even see stars at night. the growth in steamboat does look pretty good to me too. at least the trailers are confined to the trailer parks here. people build nice houses. there is no big industry to light up the night sky. i did like the "fireworks" display last night though.


do you live in steamboat II? some of us like to go to bed early so we can get to work early in the morning. i have to say that fireworks aren't a problem where i live in sbs, but i have housesat in steamboat II a few times. i don't know what peoples fascination with fireworks are in steamboat II, but there were people setting off fireworks almost every night. i could understand if it was a holiday, but it wasn't. if i lived out there all the time, i probably would be calling the police too. it gets real old real fast.


rockie29 7 years ago

Whatever animal it was, it caused a major outage. Yes the town is growing, but like the stats say we are not gaining people, so let's not get too hysterical about urban sprawl, because stats wise it isn't happening.


rockie29 7 years ago

The animal had to have been filleted with the jolts of electricity it took, good God! Or it was fried. Imagine if it had been a bear, or big dog the thing might have exploded!


colowoodsman 6 years, 12 months ago

Is 'feminine logic' an oxymoron? Just because uncontrolled growth is happening elsewhere, why should we continue to allow it here? The stats say we are not growing because much of the new construction/ housing is for rentals and second homes. This was a very unique and valley but it is becoming just like the places you left.


justathought 6 years, 12 months ago

I think this was a purposeful act of revenge, an ex-con duck getting even with society for being arrested on a plumped up charge.


hubiem 6 years, 12 months ago

how do you propose we stop it? do you have enough money to buy all the land so others can't build on it? the people who own land here want a better return on their money. they want to develop the land that they own and then sell for a profit. there is not a way to stop it, unless you give these people a way to make loads of money by holding onto their land.


housepoor 6 years, 12 months ago

i heard 9news or someone had a better video of the explosion but can't seem to find it???


weststmbtres 6 years, 12 months ago

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!! Rotisserie duck grilled over an open electric arc with a slight hint of ozone.


nmypinon 6 years, 12 months ago

I was 10 miles up county rd 29. ( Trout Creek) & seen the flashing sky. Had no clue what was going on without a radio station.


Brent Boyer 6 years, 12 months ago

nmyopinon and others: We were able to send out several cell phone breaking news text alerts Sunday night to provide some basic information about the blackout. I encourage everyone to sign up for this free service from the Pilot & Today. To sign up, click on the "E-mail alerts" link at the top right corner of any Pilot & Today Web page. From there, you can sign up for weather, breaking news and sports score alerts. Alerts can be sent to e-mail accounts, cell phones or both. I'm more than happy to help anyone who needs assistance with our breaking news alert feature.

Brent Boyer Editor, Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221


rhys jones 6 years, 12 months ago

Lost dog, Walton Rd/40 vicinity. Answers to name of "Crispy"


ski_and_be_green 6 years, 12 months ago

when that bluish and green light flashed across the eye i had but one impending thought in my mind---- APOCOLYPSE!!!


ybul 6 years, 12 months ago

Apocalypse (Greek: á¼ ÏοΰÎλÏÏ Î¹Ï Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil"), is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind. Today the term is often used to mean "End of planet Earth", which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the Ã:on, or age".

It is too bad we do not understand the origins of terms and are subject to their new meanings, which probably lead us down the wrong path.


skiday11 6 years, 12 months ago

ybul - why does THAT matter? It has mythological meaning (meaningless). It lead people down the wrong path? wow.


ZukesDad 6 years, 12 months ago

Been here long enough to see the 'Northern Lights' 3 times!, and this little display was Damn close to those events, however, the aftermath was spooky... fortunately there was no 'looting' or pillaging that you get in a 'Big City' enviroment, except for the 'morons' getting in their cars to go to 7-11 and the local liquor store, Dude are you blind or what, DUH...!

p.s. Probably made for a "Memorable" wedding reception at the top of Thunderhead!


bountyhunter4590 6 years, 12 months ago

I was catching fugitives when the lights went out, it was some sight to behold, to see the electric show out there.


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