Mysterious Outage Darkens Coast - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/13/05

Mysterious Outage Darkens Coast

For a flickering moment overnight, the lights went out in sleepy neighborhoods across South Mississippi. People woke up to flashing clocks with incorrect times on them.

Kurt Brautigam is Mississippi Power's spokesman.

"This was a very unusual morning and a very unusual event," he said.

Something malfunctioned in Mississippi Power's switch yard. But nobody is sure what piece of equipment stopped working. So a transmission substation crew spent the day looking for clues that could explain why thousands of people lost power for up to 10 minutes.

"They're looking at all the buses, all the fuses, all the actual complex system of equipment that allows us to deliver electricity leaving the power plant going down transmission lines and into distribution substations," Brautigam said.

The power bump in the switch yard short circuited electricity to 40,000 Mississippi Power customers around Harrison County.

Nearly 20,000 thousand Coast Electric members and almost 3,200 Singing River Electric Power Association users also lost power. Their electricity comes from the Plant Watson transmission system that malfunctioned.

"This is something we'll take very seriously, look at, and certainly try to prevent in the future," said Brautigam.

A power outage of this magnitude is very rare. Normally, it takes a hurricane coming ashore for Mississippi Power to have a significant percentage of its service interrupted.

"Our reliability is 99.9%," the Mississippi Power spokesman said.

For a few hours Thursday, Mississippi Power borrowed electricity from a Louisiana power company. By nightfall, the Gulfport switch yard was once again supplying power to South Mississippi homes.

by Brad Kessie

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