One big blowout

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By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

COEUR d’ALENE — A blown surge protector at Avista’s Cherry Hill substation Monday evening left roughly 12,000 people in Coeur d’Alene without electricity before service was fully restored after midnight.

The outage to the transmission line at the substation along North 15th Street required crews to reroute power to provide electricity to customers east of Government Way from Walnut Avenue to French Gulch and parts of Coeur d’Alene and Dalton Gardens northeast of Interstate 90, as well as downtown.

Power was slowly restored across the city between 6:45 p.m., when the outage was reported, and about 11 p.m., when 4,000 customers were still without power, Avista said.

Bill Reagan, general manager of The Coeur d’Alene Resort, said his hotel and restaurants were packed when the power went out. He called it “the longest non-storm related power outage in my 30-plus years with The Coeur d’Alene Resort.”

“Unfortunately, the timing of the event made dinner hour extremely difficult on our guests,” Reagan told The Press on Tuesday. “Relying on past experiences with Avista, our expectations of restored service were underestimated.”

Reagan gave high praise, however, to Coeur d’Alene city officials.

“Communication with the city of Coeur d’Alene emergency services, including fire and police departments, was outstanding,” he said. “They checked in with us to assure we had everything necessary to provide safety and comfort to our guests and team members.”

Avista Communications Coordinator Kim Vollan said a surge protector that protects equipment at the Cherry Hill substation blew before 7 p.m. Crews began to reroute power to its customers in Coeur d’Alene, Dalton Gardens and Fernan one neighborhood at a time.

The outage didn’t affect 911 communications, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department said, though 15 traffic signals in the city stopped functioning.

City Engineer Chris Bosely said most power in the city was restored by 11 p.m. The 15 traffic signals flashed red instead of changing colors. Motorists rightly treated them “like a four-way stop,” Bosely said.

Crews went out at 3 a.m. to reset traffic lights from Riverstone to 15th Street to accommodate morning commuters.

“It takes about an hour” to get the signals in the proper chronology, he said.

Vollan said power was restored to 3,500 people along 15th Street to Dalton Gardens from 8:25 p.m. and 9 p.m. It was restored between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to customers from Harrison Avenue to I-90 as well as City Park, The Coeur d’Alene Resort, the Coeur d’Alene Press and the Tubbs Hill neighborhood. Between midnight and 1 a.m., power was restored to more than 4,000 customers from I-90 south along 15th Street and in Fernan Village.

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