Utah substation explosion creates power outages

By Ben Winslow
The Deseret Morning News

SALT LAKE CITY — Power has been restored to 26,000 customers in the Salt Lake City and Park City areas hours after an explosion at one of Rocky Mountain Power's substations. Electricity was restored about 5 p.m. Saturday, Rocky Mountain Power officials said.

"All power has been restored, and we don't anticipate any other outages resulting from this," said power company spokesman Jeff Hymas.

At its height, the power outage left 26,000 customers without electricity stretching from Salt Lake City south to Cottonwood Heights and Murray and up to Park City. It started about 1 p.m. when a circuit breaker at the substation near 3900 South and 1100 East failed.

"It's the same thing as in your house," Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said. "It's a piece of equipment that when a problem is detected, it stops the flow of electricity. In this case, the circuit breaker itself failed."

Unified Fire Authority Capt. Clint Smith said witnesses described the explosion as a large boom followed by a fireball.

When firefighters reached the substation, the fire was isolated to oil leaking from the damaged circuit breaker.

Crews were able to douse those flames in a matter of minutes using a dry chemical mix, Smith said.

St. Mark's Hospital was operating on backup generators Saturday afternoon.

Hospital officials reported that the facility was still operational but not accepting any new patients in the emergency room.

Slowly, power began to be restored across the Salt Lake Valley and in Summit County.

Hazmat crews and officials from the Salt Lake Valley Health Department responded to the substation to assist with the cleaning process and make sure the oil was disposed of properly.

Eskelsen said it will be weeks before the circuit breaker can be repaired, but crews will be able to bypass it.

Copyright 2009 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

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