5 transformers blow in domino fashion
On a morning with wind chills as cold as 14 degrees below zero, five Marion electric transformers went out in domino fashion Thursday.
It took 10 city workers until 5:25 p.m. to restore power to the eastern portion of Marion. Besides the city’s four electric workers, workers from street and alley, parks, and cemetery crews were pulled away from regular duties to help.
Four linemen were in bucket trucks. Others were working on the ground, moving things around, shuttling transformers, and keeping an eye out for workers in the bucket truck to give warning if they appeared to be about to touch the wrong parts.
City administrator Roger Holter said the problem began between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. with a transformer that feeds power along Kellison St., then sends it south along Coble St.
“One of the line splicers or connectors somehow came off,” Holter said. “When that splicer came apart at Kennison and Coble, that shut down all around the east side of town.”
The line fell to the ground. When workers fixed the line problem, transformers began to fail because oil inside them had quickly cooled, Holter said.
Three transformers that supply Marion Manufacturing failed after power was restored at Kellison. Two of them failed from overworking to try to keep power going
Marion Manufacturing was the last customer to have power restored about 5:30 p.m.
Co-owner Tim Richmond said he sent most of his 25 employees home when power failed because equipment could not be run, but a few were able to stay because three lower-power transformers that also serve the business and stayed operable and gave the business enough electricity to keep furnaces going.
Power ended up going out for a large portion of the east side of the city.
East side residents were out of power for up to two hours 15 minutes as work on the transformers progressed, Holter said.
Other businesses in the outage area included Carlsons’ grocery and Subway.
Subway closed because of the power failure.
“We had to close because the bread was already ruined,” owner Greg Carlson said. “It was about 8 o’clock in the morning. I watched the transformer blow. It sounded like a shotgun, and then oil spewed from the top.”
The same circuit goes past St. Luke Hospital. The hospital has a generator to keep power on.
A few places on the east side of Cedar St. also were affected, Holter said.
One transformer had to be ordered from a Newton manufacturer.
Midwest Transformer quickly refurbished a replacement transformer and delivered it to Marion about 4 p.m., the business said.
The company’s standard lead time for a transformer is 10 to 12 weeks.
The price range of a transformer is between $5,000 for a refurbished one and $7,500 for a new one, the business said.
Only one water line was reported frozen, Holter said. The city is responsible for repairing water lines between the street and water meter.
“If it’s the line out by the meter, we go out and warm it up and make sure water is flowing,” he said.
Harvey Sanders, who used to be city electric utility superintendent, speculated that damage caused by a severe windstorm three weeks ago could have played a role in the power failure.
“It could have happened during that wind, and it just now showed up,” Sanders said. “They probably don’t know themselves, either.”
Despite a day’s lost production, Richmond had good words to say about city workers getting the power back on.
“The city crew did a good job,” Richmond said. “They stayed out and got it done.”
Last modified Jan. 13, 2022