Gregory Alan Bolcer
Tue, 30 Apr 2002 07:47:51 -0700
Geege the Arsonist,
Sitting in the dark five hours,
Boils her water twice.
Monday April 29 11:22 PM EDT
Lights Slowly Coming Back On In Jacksonville
A fire at a Talleyrand power plant, along with two major transmission lines going down and a
breaker tripping, resulted in a complete outage of all electricity to the Jacksonville metro area
Then, 90 minutes later, as much of the power came back on, the
lights went out again for two more hours.
JEA said that the power company was slowly and methodically
restoring electricity their 300,000 customers.
The power first went out after 4:15 p.m., when the entire JEA
system was shut down after four incidents in the systems, including
a fire at the city-owned utility's Kennedy Generating Station.
About 60 percent of customers were restored by 6 p.m., but most of
those lost power again about 15 minutes later. The JEA blamed the second outage on a tree
that caught fire under high-voltage lines along Otis Road on the Westside.
At 7 p.m., JEA reported about 25 percent of its customers' power was back on. Shortly after 9
p.m., they expected power to be restored to 65 percent of their customers in Jacksonville, parts
of St. Johns, Clay and Nassau counties. At 11 p.m., JEA officials estimated 90 percent, with
the everyone except isolated pockets expected to have power by midnight.
JEA managing director Walt Bussells asked people to conserve electricity while they bring
power back on throughout the system.
Parts of the city's water supply lost power during the power outage, and city officials advised
residents who lost water pressure to boil their water before drinking until further notice.
The Duval County School Board announced at 11 p.m. that all classes would be held on
normal schedules Tuesday.
Bussells said the problems started when two major transmission lines on Jacksonville's
westside detected a fault and shut down about 4:15 p.m. That was followed by a fire in a
transformer at the Kennedy Generating Station, which was followed by a generator shutdown
at another plant.
Computers then shut down the utility's entire system to keep it from being damaged.
"We shut down the whole system so we could restore it in a safe way," said Bussells, who
added he did not think the failures were related.
WOKV radio reporter Judy Mayer talked with witnesses near the power plant who heard an
explosion just before 4:30 p.m., followed by a cloud of heavy black smoke.
Fire chief Terry Dennis said the fire at the generating station was confined to a small area, and
it only took 30 minutes to knock the fire down once the power plant was shut down so
firefighters could safely get to the fire.
There were no injuries.
"It's just a bizarre set of circumstances. We have no indication of anything sinister,"
Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney told Channel 4. "The sheriff is filling the streets with patrol
cars. Fire and rescue is responding as quickly as possible."
Jacksonville's Emergency Operations Center was activated just before 5 p.m., and was
operating at a level two throughout the evening.
Police reported traffic lights throughout the city were out, and police asked that people only
call 911 for emergencies -- not outages.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office called its midnight shift in early, and held the day shift over,
so that a maximum number of officers would be on the street until power is restored.
Telephone service -- even some cellular service -- was affected.
"If you don't have to be on the road, don't. If you don't need to be on your phone, don't,"
Sharon Ashton of the mayor's staff said.
There were no major reports of people stuck in elevators, but several people were stuck for a
while in a Skyway mass transit car in San Marco.
The power company said that it's prepared to deal with two major, simultaneous incidents --
but not four. The remaining power was voluntarily shut off to prevent any further damage to
Power was returned to Jacksonville International Airport at 5:45 p.m., but then went out again
During the outages, the airport ran on emergency power, with arriving flights allowed to land,
but no departing flights taking off as there was no power in the terminal for ticketing or
Airport officials were asking people to call their airlines' toll-free number about the status of
flights before going to the airport.
Power was briefly affected at Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center -- Jacksonville's only
trauma center. Generators kept critical systems running during the outage.
Memorial Hospital, St. Vincent's Medical Center and Mayo Clinic operated on emergency
power for more than an hour the first time, then had to go back on generators during the
Baptist Medical Center has their own power plant and was not affected.
Evening classes at Florida Community College at Jacksonville and University of North
Florida were cancelled for the evening.
Busells called Monday's events a "perfect storm," in that four things failed at the same time.
He said it's too early to know the exact sequence of events, or whether one event caused the a
chain reaction that resulted in the shutdown of the entire power system.
The last time the JEA's entire system shut down was in 1977.
Email this story - View most popular | Printer-friendly format