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Cause for outage mystery

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, January 19, 2018

Elizabeth City is still trying to get to the bottom of a large power outage that occurred earlier this month, City Manager Rich Olson reported Wednesday.

On the morning of Sunday, Jan. 7, the city’s Perkins Lane substation failed, knocking out power to a southern part of Elizabeth City, Olson reported to City Council last week.

On Wednesday, Olson explained it’s still not totally clear why the outage occurred. It took several hours to get power back on for all customers, as the city’s crews tied in some load from one circuit, which serves the area around Northeastern High School, into the Pritchard Street substation.

The outage involved a breaker that kept tripping and knocking out the substation’s four circuits. Though the outage occurred during high electrical demand due to cold weather, Olson said Wednesday it’s still not clear why the breaker, which is only a few years old, kept failing.

He said the manufacturer — Square D, a subsidiary of Schneider Electric — still needs to collect more information about what went wrong, and will send someone to personally inspect it. There’s still a limited warranty on the breaker, he also noted.

Given the Perkins Lane substation carries a high electric load, Olson also reported the city is looking at how to reconfigure circuits to better distribute load.

Olson was also optimistic the outage wouldn’t occur again any time soon. The city’s electrical demand is most challenging when temperatures are less than 10 degrees, he said. The lowest temperature in the weekly forecast is 20 degrees, a low supposed to occur Wednesday night.

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