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11-hour power outage hits residents, businesses hard

POLK COUNTY -- Well, that was annoying.

August 07, 2012

POLK COUNTY -- Well, that was annoying.

Almost 5,100 customers of Pacific Power in Independence, Rickreall and parts of Monmouth and West Salem were without electricity for almost 11 hours on Thursday. That translated to a slew of business closures, traffic interruptions and general frustration from residents.

The outage started at 8 a.m., caused by a malfunction in the main power transformer at Pacific Power's substation in Independence. The utility transported a mobile unit from Albany so crews could repair the equipment, a Pacific Power spokesman said.

The lights came back on at about 7 p.m. Until then, however, Independence was in the dark ages, so to speak.

Traffic backed up behind lightless intersections in town and at Highway 99W and Hoffman Road, with drivers forced to follow four-way stop etiquette. Pumps at gas stations weren't operating. Many businesses closed early -- or never opened -- in the downtown area and Central Plaza on Monmouth Street.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Julie Leggs, whose Fro-zone frozen yogurt shop could be considered one of the day's casualties, despite using an external generator.

"We lost about (120 gallons) of yogurt," she said. "That's almost a week's worth of inventory."

The River's Edge Summer Series went through with its free movie showing at the amphitheater at Riverview Park, though only 300 showed up; in recent weeks, the event has seen attendance near 1,000.

"I don't think a lot of people believed the power would be on in time for the movie, so they didn't bother coming," said Alex Trevino, series director.

At Roth's Fresh Market, customers shopped in a darkened store while employees pulled screens over open air coolers and packed away frozen items to prevent melting and spoilage.

Monmouth, which is powered by Monmouth Power & Light, was unaffected and welcomed an influx of visitors from Independence who were unable to cook at home, dine out or fuel up.

"It pretty much doubled our business," said Joe Franko, owner of the 76 Gas Station. "We pumped a lot of gas, a lot of propane and filled a lot of gas cans.

"People were just wanting to get generators going to save whatever food they had in their houses," Franko added.

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