Circuit breaker leads to blackout

A West Point Police officers is surrounded by cars in every direction as he directs traffic at Highway 45 Alternate and Highway 50.Circuit breaker leads to blackout
Steve Rogers
Staff Writer

A four-hour blackout gave many West Point residents an early start on the long Memorial Day weekend but also wreaked havoc for businesses and some residents trying to do everything from get medicines and food to get on the road.

According to West Point City Manager Randy Jones, a breaker tripped at the main Tennessee Valley Authority substation on the city’s northern edge at about 4:35 p.m. That shut electricity off for every West Point Water and Light customer.

Power was not restored until more than four hours later as TVA crews repaired the breaker, a regulator in a transformer was replaced, city crews shut down some of the city lines, and the TVA re-energized the substation.

With holiday weekend traffic already picking up, West Point police manned some of the city’s busiest intersections, especially along Highway 45 Alternate to try to keep traffic moving.

Businesses, unsure of what to expect, told workers to temporarily shut down hoping power would be restored quickly. That was particularly true for places like convenience stores and pharmacies where security systems, cash registers and money transactions are powered by electricity.

Some finally closed as the blackout dragged on.

“We were going out tonight, I needed to get money,” said Angie Horton as she walked away from a bank that was closed shortly after the outage began.

“I need to get a prescription. I was going to get it on the way home out to Cedar Bluff,” stated Ed Kingston as he stood outside the CVS in West Point police try to manage the traffic at the Highway 45 Alternate-Highway 50 intersection.

“God love ‘em, I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of that,” Kingston said of the officers as he decided to wait in his car.

“It wasn’t too bad. The troopers came in and helped on the highway,” West Point Police Chief Avery Cook said.

Another concern is people on breathing machines, but Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said he didn’t know of any residents who had to be rescued or assisted.

Some businesses weren’t as fortunate.

“No telling what we lost…Friday night between 5 and 8 on a holiday weekend, it was a bunch, a whole bunch,” said one fast-food restaurant manager. “This killed us. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Within the next 18 months, West Point is going to upgrade its current kW-46 transmission system to the more powerful and reliable kW 161 line by hooking into the TVA’s kW 161 transmission line that runs along the city’s western edge. The city’s existing kW 46 substations will be retrofitted and a two new ones – one for the new Peco plants on West Church Hill Road and one for the city – will be built.

Funds provided by Peco and reduced TVA charges for converting power from kW 161 to kW 46 will pay for the improvements without a rate increase.

One of the selling points is increased reliability. Furthermore, in the case of blackouts such as the one that occurred Friday night, crews can restore service more quickly, city leaders said previously.