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Power restored to Mancos area after extended Empire blackout

A mobile substation was driven from Montrose and hooked up to replace a damaged substation in Mancos that caused a widespread outage Thursday and Friday. (Courtesy Montezuma County)
Outage affected 1,700 Empire Electric customers

Power has been restored in the Mancos area after an extended and widespread outage that affected nearly 1,700 customers of Empire Electric Association.

The blackout started Thursday at 10:39 a.m. when a transformer on a Tri-State Generation and Transmission substation failed, and could not be repaired, said Andy Carter, member engagement manager for Empire.

The outage included the town of Mancos and surrounding areas, including Joe Moore Reservoir, Summit Lake, Weber Canyon and Mancos Hill.

As part of its emergency power restoration plan, Empire dispatched crews to redirect power from a Dolores substation and the Cortez East substation onto Mancos circuits.

The back-feed procedure took several hours to set up, and power was restored to approximately 1,400 customers late afternoon Thursday.

A widespread, extended power outage hit Empire Electric Association’s service area in and around Mancos Thursday and Friday. (Courtesy Empire Electric Association)

Because of limited load capacity, the remaining 175 customers in the outage area were without power overnight. They were located on the outskirts of the Mancos service area in the Summit Lake, Weber Canyon and Joe Moore Reservoir neighborhoods.

Tri-State brought in a mobile substation Friday night from Montrose to replace the damaged unit, Carter said. Empire and Tri-State crews worked through the night to make the connections, and power to the remaining 175 customers was restored at 6:58 a.m. Friday.

Back-feed power from Cortez and Dolores substations is no longer necessary, and those customers can resume normal electricity use.

Empire Electric substations are designed to redirect power to one another in the event of power outages.

Carter said the cause of the transformer failure was not known. There was no evidence that a squirrel, bird or lightning strike caused a problem.

He said the unit is regularly inspected and serviced by Tri-State and there was no indication of an imminent failure.

The substation will be in place until the transformer can be replaced.

The timeline on the replacing the damaged transformer is not known yet, Carter said.

When the repair is made and the mobile substation is disconnected, Mancos will lose power for several hours.

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Customers will receive notice seven to 10 days before the planned outage will occur, Carter said.

Empire Electric still plans to launch a real-time outage map that provides information to customers during blackouts.

Empire continues to test the outage map, Carter said, and will add it to the website soon, he said.

To inform customers of outages, Empire posts information on its website and Facebook page. In this outage, it also partnered with the Montezuma County emergency manager to post information on county websites and release information on Nixle, which is delivered via email and text to people who have registered to receive them.

About 30 Empire and Tri-State employees worked on the blackout, which was a larger outage than Empire typically experiences, Carter said.

“We appreciate our member's patience and understanding as Empire and Tri-State crews worked to restore power,” said EEA General Manager Josh Dellinger in a news release Friday. “We understand reliability is important, and that’s why we have plans in place and design our system to be able to respond to these emergencies. We appreciate Tri-State's efforts to help restore power quickly.”

Information on how to prepare for an outage can be found at eea.coop.

Empire advises residents to turn off or unplug sensitive electronic devices during an outage to reduce the chance they may be damaged when power is restored.

Residents who still have no power should check their circuit breakers and fuses. If they are OK, Empire said it would dispatch a crew to investigate. Call (970) 565-4444 for assistance.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com