Power Outage Hits Southern Utah

We lost power yesterday for a few minutes here in St. George, and wouldn’t you know reports have made the newspaper…This was taken from the Spectrum. – A tripped circuit breaker at a main transmission station left about 200,000 Southern Utah residents without power yesterday morning, but for only about four minutes.

David Eskelsen, spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Power, said the problem originated with a tripped breaker at a PacifiCorp substation in Sigurd, near Richfield. The issue disconnected power customers south of that station, including parts of Iron County and all of Washington County, from 9:10 to 9:14 a.m.

“We don’t know exactly what caused the problem, but we’re looking into it,” Eskelsen said. “We don’t expect any other problems.

Phil Solomon, Energy Services director for the city of St. George, said the problem would typically not be noticed in the St. George area, but the main power line that brings a redundant power source from Las Vegas is currently shut down while crews add a new transformer to the Nevada substation. The line has been closed since May 23, and should come back on after Friday.

“It just happened that we had this problem during that period. Otherwise we never would have seen the outage,” Solomon said.

In recent years, local utilities have worked to try and add more redundancy and reliability to power systems, forming a regional task force to develop plans, making physical changes such as steel power poles, and more vegetation management to mitigate fire danger and honing an emergency outage plan, Solomon said. 

The redundancy connection with Nevada has improved in capacity, meaning that residents typically wouldn’t notice situations like Tuesday’s. In addition, the City of St. George had added another natural gas generation station, bringing its independent capacity up to about 100 megawatts – enough to power essential buildings like the hospital and police station as well as provide intermittent coverage to other residences and businesses, or even to power the entire city during winter months.

The city also has agreements with other nearby utilities to share power when needed, Solomon said. For the last three two-year periods, the city has received awards for reliability from the American Public Power Association.

“With the other municipalities and providers, we’ve worked together to handle these kinds of contingencies,” Solomon said.

Public safety officials scrambled to deal with the ensuing traffic confusion, but St. George Police Department Public Information Officer Johnny Heppler said there were no accidents reported as a result of the outage.