• Last modified 611 days ago (Oct. 12, 2022)


Brownout destroys 130 lights, cancels classes at Centre

Staff writer

Centre students got two bonus days off last week after a brownout dimmed parts of their school and destroyed 130 light fixtures.

No one was injured.

Superintendent Larry Geist said the pre-kindergarten through 12th grade campus lost service about 1:30 p.m. Oct. 3 to part of the school while other areas were experiencing “very low voltage.”

The glitch, he said, continued for several hours. The district contacted Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which sent a crew to the school.

The failure was caused by a wire that became disconnected at the point of delivery of electricity on Flint Hills’ system, member services manager Travis Griffin said Monday.

Workers also discovered a bird had flown into a transformer down the line from the school. Power, Geist said, was restored as soon as the transformer was fixed.

“Birds do occasionally cause outages, but it is uncertain in this situation what caused the line to become disconnected,” he said. “These situations are hard to diagnose after it happens because you were not there to witness what went wrong.”

Later that evening, however, school employees discovered that about 130 LED lights in the building were not functioning properly. Griffin said he couldn’t speak to the lights blowing out.

Flint Hills returned to see whether there were problems with the transformer, but there were none, Geist said.

Flint Hills maintains more than 2,500 miles of line in rural areas in 11 eastern Kansas counties.

“Upon further investigation throughout the building, it was discovered that 130 LED light fixtures were destroyed by the low voltage,” Geist said. “The electrician was able to find the needed fixtures and began replacing them the next morning. Due to the lack of lighting in the building, school was called off on Tuesday.”

Exposed wires and equipment throughout the building were deemed a safety hazard, so Geist canceled classes Wednesday, as well.

Electricians fixed fixtures in most classrooms, and classes resumed Thursday while workers finished lights in the hallway and a few rooms.

Cost to replace fixtures exceeded $11,000 not including labor, Geist said.

“We will file an insurance claim for the cost once everything is complete,” Geist said. “We are still finding things that may have been the cause of the brownout so the list is ongoing at this point.”

The Centre campus operates wells for water, and the district restarted pumps to check water quality.

Flint Hills has measures to try to prevent outages, Griffin said.

“We do monthly inspections on all of our substations and points of delivery,” he said. “We also use protective equipment on our lines to help reduce instances like this. We also recommend that all our members take measures to help protect their homes and businesses by using surge protection either for the whole home/business or even point of use surge protection.”

Last modified Oct. 12, 2022