Accident causes massive power outage

Chris Cooper Managing Editor

February 24, 2014

An automobile accident on Friday, Feb. 21 caused a massive power outage for the city of Russellville that lasted almost four hours, leaving many wondering what was wrong.

When the lights went out at approximately 9:30 a.m. many were perplexed on what could have happened considering there wasn’t a dark cloud in the sky. According to Robert White, Executive Director of the Russellville Electric Plant Board (EPB), the accident created a “perfect storm” when James M. Howard, of Elkton, ran off the 68/80 Bypass and collided with a utility pole.

Russellville Police say Howard was traveling eastbound on the Bypass when he left the road, traveled through some grass and struck the pole, which caused it to lean, become damaged, and subsequently knocked out the substation near the accident. Howard was transported to Logan Memorial Hospital where he was treated for non-threatening injuries.

The substation affected by the accident serves 75 percent of the EPB’s customer base. According to White, a substation is no different then a breaker box at someone’s home. If something happens to threaten the electrical system at a home, the breaker will trip to protect the house. This is what occurred when Howard hit the utility pole. The substation’s breakers tripped, ultimately shutting down the station to protect the assets of the EPB and its customers.

“When we went through thunderstorms last week, I was up worrying, hoping we didn’t lose power, but thank goodness we did not,” said White. “Then this unfortunate accident occurred, and it knocked out our whole substation for the first time in 10 years.”

White said that because the fault tripped all the breakers, it shut the substation down.

“When ever you have any kind of major fault where it trips all breakers, the TVA will respond as well to protect its assets,” said White, adding the EPB had to wait for TVA to work out its protocol before the substation could be booted back up.

Stevenson Elementary, many downtown restaurants and businesses as well as factories suffered the outage.

“The system did exactly what it was supposed to do, but we don’t anticipate this happening again anytime soon,” said White.