OBERLIN — Helping in a chemistry research lab at Oberlin College for the summer, Sophie Lewandowski had to end Friday’s workday early when the computers suddenly shut down and the lab’s refrigerators, in which many long-term experiments are stored, went dark around 1 p.m.
“We could not be productive,” Lewandowski said.
Lewandowski was one of the many Oberlin residents affected by the loss of power Friday after an electrical cross arm west of the city broke.
According to Steve Dupee, electric director at Oberlin Municipal Light and Power, two of Ohio Edison’s circuits that provide the city with energy stopped working because of the disruption of a circuit between the Henrietta Township and Oberlin switch stations.
The result left 32,000 residents and nearly all downtown businesses without power. There also was a small explosion.
“The faulty condition led to a significant ball of fire,” Dupee said.
The power outage was reported at
12:57 p.m., Dupee said.
After receiving an alert late Friday morning, First Energy Representative Stephanie Thornton said the company sent a crew to investigate the cause of the outage.
While the crew worked to solve the issue, the Oberlin Police Department, which runs on its own generator, first responded to the outage’s effect on the city’s stoplights. Officers set up makeshift four-way stop signs at intersections and directed traffic.
Police Lt. Michael McCloskey said there were no accidents related to the power outage, but reported there were minor traffic violations by drivers who “don’t know the rules” when an emergency ensues.
Many buildings that house business and college affiliates, such as the Office of Communications and libraries, closed, unable to function in the dark.
However, the college’s in-house police safety and security department, which partially operates on supplemental power sources, had its services up and running.
Many restaurants shut down for the day, including Oberlin’s Slow Train Cafe. Earlier Friday, the cafe posted on its Facebook page that it hoped to re-open at 7 p.m. for wine and trivia night.
Slow Train Cafe night manager Dan Longwell confirmed that power was restored around 7:20 p.m. throughout the town.
To preserve perishable food items, Slow Train Cafe employees went to stores — including Wal-Mart, Oberlin IGA and DrugMart — to purchase as much ice as possible.
“We just put everything on ice,” Longwell said. “We didn’t lose anything.”
However, Gibson’s Candy and Ice Cream, on West College Street, stayed open during the power outage.
According to Chris Fallon, an employee at the ice cream shop, customers still wanted ice cream as the temperatures reached into the 80s Friday.
“We stuck it out by keeping the coolers closed (when not in use),” Fallon said.
To ensure no one was injured, employees guided customers through the business using flashlights.
Earlier on Friday, Thornton confirmed that repairs to the cross arm would be done by
7 p.m. and that energy was expected to return before midnight, once all the work was completed.
According to Lorain-Medina Rural Electric, the outage also affected 500 of Lorain-Medina Rural Electric’s customers in Camden and Henrietta townships.
Reporter Melissa Linebrink also contributed to this story.
Contact Elizabeth Kuhr at 329-7126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.