City employees, SIEC employees, and Shermco employees spent a week repairing Bloomfield’s electrical system after a major power failure left the city in the dark Sept. 28.
The week was a long one in which city employees racked up 104 hours of overtime to get the city’s electrical system working satisfactorily.
It all began when DPW Danny Simonson began receiving texts around 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 that power had gone out. City electricians Jerid Shaw and Dave Hall reported immediately and Simonson soon followed. Other employees were called in to help not only with the electrical system, but with other duties that arise during a power outage.
“We saw it was a major failure and called Greg Proctor (Manager of SIEC) for substation help,” Simonson said. “We then called Shermco (a company that works with substations) as well.”
After first trying to repair and get wires put together, the electricians discovered underground wires were at fault as well.
When Shermco finally got a laptop computer plugged into the system around midnight Sept. 28, they were able to see seven different instances of 8,000-amp hits to the system, Simonson said, leading to the conclusion that lightning most likely provided the charges.
Getting the town back on power involved doing cutouts of certain grids, tying into different grids, and combining feeders. “The loads were high,” Simonson said. “We had to stagger turning the switches on.”
Simonson was grateful for the help of Mayor Dan Wiegand who is an electrician. “He helped with mapping the cutouts and tying into different grids,” Simonson said.
“We tried to isolate the big power users like the hospital and nursing home and get them on their own feeders,” Simonson added.
By 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, the entire town of Bloomfield had power.
Simonson said while the city’s electricians were busy working on the electrical system, other employees had other tasks to tend to. “Some guys were out working on the lift stations to keep the sewers flowing,” he said.
There are generators attached to the lift stations that are supposed to go on automatically. However, some of them didn’t work and had to be jump-started. City employees had to bring in a temporary generator for one that went out.
Bradley Rook reported to the city council Thursday night that his sewer backed up into his basement when a generator didn’t keep the lift station running. Rook was told to report to City Hall Friday morning regarding the problem.
An employee in the water department had to be called in to manually monitor and control the water flow coming into the city during the outage.
Without electricity, sump pumps were not working during the rainstorm. “That created a problem all over town,” Simonson said.
He was grateful not only for the long hours his employees put in, but also the assistance of SIEC and those businesses that used their own generators to help reduce the power load as well as to all who helped conserve power throughout the week.
“The solar field also helped us bring down the load on Monday and Tuesday during the day,” he said. “But now it’s off the system because we can’t control how much is coming in and it could overproduce. We need to keep it shut off until it can properly feed into the system. We don’t want to cause any damage.”
Power to the northeast quadrant of town was turned off at 1 a.m. Sunday while workers balanced out the feeder lines
After going through this major power outage, Simonson and other city officials say it’s time to do a review, bring in outside help, and create a disaster plan.
“It’s time to look at our system and upgrade,” Simonson said. “We have 11 cabinets in our transformer house, and they cost about $50,000 apiece — and that doesn’t include the installation. We have to decide whether to totally replace all 11, partially replace, or recondition. We need to look at our options and see what we can afford.”
Simonson did say that Bloomfield —in comparison to other cities of comparable size — is in the top 10% as far as having a structurally sound electrical infrastructure. “We’re more storm resilient than many except for a lightning strike where it all feeds from,” he said.
SIEC Manager Greg Proctor said Doug Wintermote, Tom Redding, and Scott Johnson responded to the call to assist the City of Bloomfield when the outage occurred. Ross Hunter arrived later. They helped with line switching and restoration, while other SIEC employees were simultaneously responding to underground cable failures in the Bunch area — possibly due to lightning.
“We had six linemen out Saturday — two for the city and four for SIEC,” he said. “Both were challenging outages.”
SIEC invested a total of 54 man hours assisting the City of Bloomfield throughout the week.
“One of our principles is commitment to community,” Proctor said. “In turn, I think they’ll help us if needed.
“We do have talented employees who are dedicated to their community. Eight of our 26 employees in operations assisted on the city’s outage.
“We’re glad we could help,” he said.
Care Center follows emergency plan
Taking care of residents in a nursing home can be challenging during a power outage, but Bloomfield Care Center Administrator Nancy Newman said the facility managed with few difficulties by following its emergency plan.
“Our main concern is making certain those on oxygen have an ample supply,” Newman said.
When an outage occurs, Care Center residents can be taken to Mulberry Place, which has its own generator. However, Newman said, if the outage is lengthy, residents are taken to the hospital if necessary.
With mild temperatures and no real need for heat or air-conditioning, it was possible to leave Care Center residents in their rooms Saturday night. Newman has a portable power pack that can be used to operate power beds or lift chairs.
“Most of the residents were in bed, and we just opened up the windows,” Newman said. “We had several department heads in during the night to do room-to-room checks.”
As power was being restored, Newman said the Care Center did everything possible to conserve energy such as turning off hallway lights and air-conditioning.
A planned outage for repairs occurred Tuesday night after supper. “We gathered the residents around the hub and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ this time,” she said.