Winds whip up trouble

Published 8:36 am Friday, January 9, 2009

FRANKLIN—High winds ripped a section of a tree onto city power lines Wednesday night, knocking out electricity to some customers until Thursday morning.

A broken pine tree tore down seven to eight spans of power lines, broke five power poles, and damaged various hardware and one transformer, according to Dexter Trump, the director for the city’s Power & Light department. Broken tree limbs damaged wire and connectors in other areas of the city’s power system.

Trump said that at 6:43 p.m., a city circuit that provides service along the High Street corridor suffered severe storm damage. Customers affected included Southampton Memorial Hospital, The Village at Woods Edge, and residents along High Street from Homestead Drive to the city limits. Additional customers on Wynnwood Drive, one-half of Crescent Drive, Page Street, Carrie Drive, the Forest Pines Apartments, Fairview Drive and River Road were also affected.

Minor outages were also reported at single-family homes on Lee’s Mill Road, Oak Street, and Robinhood Road, Trump said.

“Our department responded quickly to restore power to as many customers as possible upon their arrival,” Trump said. “We were able to restore power to Homestead Drive, Fairview Drive, and eighty percent of Forest Pines within a couple of hours.”

Barricades were erected shortly afterwards along North High Street at Beaman Street to the south, and at Wynnwood Drive to the north. Power & Light workers were observed cutting down the pine tree that came down, and trying to free a section of it from power lines. The tree was near the intersection of North High Street and Homestead Drive, and was later measured at 16 inches in diameter.

Trump said power was restored immediately to Oak Street and Robinhood Road. The rest of the Forest Pines Apartment complex received power at approximately 1:15 a.m., and The Village at Woods Edge and its annex had their power back on two hours later.

The Village at Woods Edge and Southampton Memorial Hospital operated on back-up generators during the power outage, Trump said.

“Restoration of our system was completed this morning, however there are extensive further repairs and system reconfiguration that must be done to return our system to normal,” Trump said, adding that no customers were currently without power. He anticipated that the repairs would be completed by the end of next week.

Chuck Penn, a spokesman with Dominion Power, said the utility “fared fairly well” during Wednesday night’s storm. At one point there were 31,000 customers in the region without power, but most had their power restored. Penn said Dominion should have the last of the outages repaired by 6 p.m. Thursday.

In Southampton County, the Southampton-New Kent high school boys’ basketball game scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed when the lights at the school went out during the fourth quarter of the preceding junior varsity game, and never came back on beyond emergency lights fueled by a generator.

A makeup date was not announced Wednesday night, but Littleton Parker, Southampton athletic director, said the school would not charge admission when the teams play again.