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Outages bring darkness twice in three days

Breaker at McNary substation finally stops power fault after three other breakers fail
Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on July 16, 2018 3:01PM

Last changed on July 16, 2018 5:55PM

Power failures doused the lights twice over the weekend in the Pendleton area.

A 17-minute outage on Sunday night affected 12,500 Pacific Power customers. Darkness ensued just after 9 p.m. and returned at 9:20. Tom Gauntt, of Pacific Power, could give only a limited explanation because of the utility’s relationship with the Bonneville Power Administration.

“We get some of our energy from them,” Gauntt said. “This was an interruption on their end.”

BPA spokesman David Wilson said the outage involved three breakers on BPA transmission lines that failed to handle a surge of electrical current, known as a fault. The first breaker, at the North Powder substation, didn’t trip. Two other breakers, one at the La Grande substation and the Round-Up substation southeast of Pendleton, also malfunctioned. A breaker at the McNary substation finally opened up. The outage involved 103 miles of line.

“It shouldn’t have gone that far,” Wilson said. “The first breaker should have opened up and stopped it. We’re trying to figure out what happened and why.”

He said heat could possibly have been a factor. Wilson didn’t know what created the fault, but said they are generally caused by lightning strikes or branches that come in contact with power line.

The outage also affected customers of Oregon Trail Electric Co-Op, which owns the North Powder substation.

Another outage in the Pendleton area happened a couple of days earlier on Friday afternoon.

“It started at 4:06 p.m. and affected about 800 customers,” Gauntt said. “It looks like a fuse on a transformer failed.”

Power returned to some customers before others. By about 7 p.m., almost half saw their lights come back on. By 9 p.m., only 169 customers remained in the dark. At midnight, power was fully restored.


Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0810.


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