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Transformer failure leaves 10,000 powerless By Roger Pitt Post-Crescent Waupaca bureau chief
Nearly 10,000 customers of two utilities in three counties were without power for several hours late Thursday after a transformer failed at a substation west of Waupaca.
The outage affected about 2,000 Wisconsin Public Service Corp. customers in the Stevens Point area and 7,000 customers elsewhere, mostly in Waupaca County and including the Waupaca County 911 Communications Center, as well as 650 Wisconsin Electric Power Co. customers in the Weyauwega area.
John Ruff, a spokesman for Alliant Energy, said the power outage, which affected parts of Waupaca, Waushara and Portage counties, was the result of a transformer "giving out" at a Wisconsin Power & Light substation.
Ruff said a power line connected to a tower designed to draw and ground lightning strikes apparently fell on its own accord and landed on the transformer, causing it to fail.
Several other substations were affected, resulting in scattered outages from Green Bay to Stevens Point and Rosholt to Wautoma, putting households in the dark for several hours about dinner time.
Ruff said power to most WPS customers was restored by rerouting electric energy from other locations and bypassing the damaged transformer.
Repair parts had to be flown in. Once they arrived, fully restoring power did not take long.
WEPCO spokesman John Bartel said the incident created problems with a 138,000-volt WPS transmission line that feeds into the Weyauwega substation and power was cut at about 5:30 p.m.
Power was restored to most WEPCO customers by 7:21 p.m.
Some Waupaca County residents remained without power until after 10 p.m., but power was restored at the Waupaca County Sheriff's Department Communications Center about 10:30 p.m. according to one of the communicators who was on duty throughout the outage.
"We were down about 41/2 hours or a little longer," she said. "We were on auxiliary power and did not have any problems.
"The Fremont area was fine, they had no outage. But an area north of Weyauwega, slightly east of there, Manawa and the northeastern area of the county - including an area from Waupaca to Iola - was out of power," she said.
While nothing serious happened, the Waupaca Communications Center received some curious calls. They included inquiries about whether callers should make sandwiches and how to prepare a meal without power, and also complaints about not being able to watch television.
* Post-Crescent reporters Steve Wideman and Greg Bump contributed to this report
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), June 10, 2000