Lightning strike blamed for 2 power outages for LCUB customers

A second widespread power outage in as many days in West Knox County left thousands of customers without power Thursday morning.

Twelve thousand customers were without power for about half an hour on Thursday morning. Ten thousand customers were without power for hours on Wednesday.

Lenoir City Utilities Board officials said the outage was weather related.

In August 2007, heat related outages caused frustration for LCUB officials and their customers. More substations were built and opened this year to meet the growing need for electricity in West Knox County.

This round of weather related outages is causing a new set of inconveniences.

During finals week at Pellissippi State Community College, the lights went out.

"A lot of the faculty took initiative and moved classes to rooms that were on the outside of buildings," Anthony Wise, Chief Academic Officer at Pellissippi State Community College said.

When the power went out on the Pellissippi campus on Wednesday, finals were relocated to rooms with windows to give students natural light so they could finish their tests.

But for technology classes, when the equipment stopped working, finals were postponed, extending the week for students before they break for the holidays.

"Basically we're going to replicate those three test periods we had yesterday, we'll replicate them tomorrow," Wise said

LCUB engineer Mitch Ledbetter said a lightning strike from a storm earlier in the week caused the two power outages so far. Ledbetter believes the lightning strike somewhere along the line that delivers power to the Solway Substation caused a lightning arrester to fail. That failure caused an explosion.

Ledbetter believes that same lightning strike must have started a delayed chain reacation that caused another lightning arrester to malfunction at the Ebeneezer Substation on Thursday.

However, when there are no weather obstacles, Knox County Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert said he still gets frustrated phone calls from Hardin Valley residents frustrated with LCUB.

"Because the infrastructure isn't there, we're experiencing more brownouts, which are temporary blackouts," Lambert said.

However, Lambert admits he doesn't have any answers for the LCUB complaints.

"There's not a whole lot we can do or that I've found that we can do yet," Lambert said.

LCUB is supervised by the Lenior City Mayor Matt Brookshire and the Lenoir City Council and two appointed Knox County representatives.

Mayor Brookshire serves as the chairman of the board. "We are in the process of building new substations just to handle the load, much of which is to handle West Knox County," Brookshire said.

LCUB engineers say two new substations have been built to meet the growing West Knox County need. A new substation was opened on Watt Road in August 2008. Another substation was built and opened on Westland Drive in October 2008. Land negotions have started for another substation off of Lovell Road.

The two Knox County members that sit on the board for LCUB are Pat Beasley and Joel Garber. They were appointed by Mayor Mike Ragsdale.