NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 14, 2012

Power outage knocks quarter of town off grid

By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News

---- — AMESBURY — A large portion of Amesbury lost power yesterday morning after a transformer on Kimball Road caught fire, knocking out power to several of the schools just as students were arriving for the day.

The fire occurred around 8:15 a.m. along one of the city’s five main feeder lines. The fire was not serious, and emergency personnel were able to fully restore power within two hours.

“It was a main transmission feeder line, which are the big ones at the top of the pole that failed,” said fire Chief Jonathan Brickett. “National Grid was on the scene within 10 minutes of the initial call, and power was restored within an hour and 45 minutes tops.”

Brickett said it wasn’t clear what caused the fire, but noted that it was odd given the mild weather conditions.

“It could have been anything, I can’t even speculate,” he said. “It’s very strange with not having a bunch of wind.”

Officials said a total of 1,679 properties were affected by the blackout, including the Cashman School, Middle School and Amesbury Academy. Superintendent Michele Robinson said the school day was just beginning and classes were able to proceed despite the outage.

“We have emergency lights that came on, so it didn’t disrupt class to any great degree,” Robinson said. “Our backup generators worked wonderfully as they’re meant to.”

Once power was restored, the school day continued as scheduled, Robinson said. The biggest worry would have been preparing lunch without power when the time came to do that, but Robinson said there was a back-up plan in place and the power came back on early enough that it wasn’t needed anyway.

Mayor Thatcher Kezer said the location of the transformer fire on one of the city’s main feeder lines was extremely unfortunate. He compared the feeder line to a main artery, saying if it were to go down, it would take out all the little branches that stem from it as well.

Brickett praised both National Grid for its quick response and effective communication, along with the mayor for helping set up a system that allowed the power to be restored quickly.