Power Failure Leaves Thousands in the Dark

Power Failure Leaves Thousands in the Dark

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News Specialist John Hollenhorst reporting The biggest power failure in years rolled across the state today. And it may have been caused by a single dump truck.

The outage probably affected more than a half million people, at least momentarily. In some cases, the power was off for hours.

Power Failure Leaves Thousands in the Dark


In official language, it was a "system disturbance". In plain language, the power grid crashed.

And it may be due to a truck crashing into a power pole.

In some cases, lights flickered and came right back on. In other places it went off and stayed off.

Cars backed up as traffic lights went out. Drivers pulled in to buy gas and then drove away because pumps were useless.

There were reports of outages stretching the length of Utah and into Wyoming, from St. George to Rock Springs.

In downtown Salt Lake City, many buildings had outages, including the LDS Church Office Building. After an hour and a half, employees were sent home for the day. It came back on moments later as Lisa Wightman was getting ready to leave.

"But everyone had gone. I guess people were pouring out of here, so my boss said I could go," Wightman says.

A dump truck may have triggered the whole thing by tangling with a power pole at 9500 South and 600 West. It shorted out a 138,000 volt transmission line.

"We heard this big boom. Then the power went out and flickered off and on," says witness Teresa Miera.

The truck incident seemed to be simultaneous with the regional power failure.

"We heard a big boom -- a big popping noise. As soon as that happened, the power went out," says witness Spike Noak.

The incident was just blocks from a critical regional power substation on 9000 South.

That substation tripped out like a giant circuit breaker, triggering a chain reaction. Twenty-six substations tripped off-line and so did several power plants.

Still, Utah Power isn't ready to say the truck caused the outage.

"It would be rather unusual for that to happen, although I guess not theoretically impossible," says Dave Eskelsen with Utah Power.

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