Cause of citywide outage still uncertain

By Laurie Hamame -

The lights were out for roughly 10 hours this past weekend in Oberlin — and the reason remains unknown.

“It sounds like a combination of things,” said Doug McMillan, the city’s light and power systems director. Two 69,000-volt circuit breakers tripped, and they both connect to FirstEnergy, the city’s electric service company.

The breaker controls are “so touchy and complicated,” and Oberlin’s electrical lines are already very complex for such a small city, he said.

At 10 p.m. Friday, McMillan learned about the outage from city manager Rob Hillard. After “a lot of searching and checking in the dark,” city workers couldn’t find a definitive answer, McMillan said, but Smith Street was still without power.

After patrolling and isolating different circuits, lights came back on for two hours. At 3:30 a.m. Saturday, the power went out again — the Butternut Ridge Road and Oberlin Road substations had tripped, darkening the entire city.

The generator at city hall failed, cutting phone lines. The dispatch system had to be transferred to county 911 operators.

Within three hours, everything was reestablished, until again at 8:30 a.m., when the power was cut for a third time.

Oberlin police posted a plea on Facebook:

“Very rarely are we provided with much more information other than when OMLPS is on scene to work on the problem and when they are finished. We are not given a time frame for repair or cause of the power outage unless it’s related to an emergency situation such as a traffic crash or inclement weather,” the post said.

“We understand this can be a very inconvenient and frustrating situation. However, please keep in mind our dispatch center is flooded with calls during this time and specific information regarding the power outage may not always be readily available.”

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame