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Power restored after lightning strike

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Stormy weather downed power lines and sparked a power outage affecting more than a thousand homes in the West End as almost an inch-and-a-half of rain fell in around six hours yesterday.

Around 1,300 Belco customers in Warwick and Southampton lost power minutes after 9am yesterday following a suspected lightning strike in the Camp Hill area, according to a company spokeswoman.

Belco crews were able to return power to more than half of the homes within an hour, and power was completely restored by 1.40pm.

The spokeswoman said workers needed to rebuild “a couple of strands” of overhead lines in order to restore power to the final 124 customers, but had to wait until the lightning had passed before starting work.

“We thank customers for their patience, as our crews worked to complete the job safely and as quickly as possible,” she said.

For much of the morning police diverted traffic away from the northern section of Camp Hill Road due to a downed utility pole and wires, but the road was reopened in the early afternoon.

Queena Francis, a cashier at Island Cuisine on Middle Road in Southampton, said she saw a bright flash from outside the restaurant at around 9am.

“I noticed that there was a very bright light from a pole directly in front of us,” she said. “I do believe the transformer just exploded. I'm not sure if the lightening hit it or if it came through the lines.

“It was like fireworks or someone taking a very bright picture. When I looked up it was sparking. At least no one was walking or driving on the road right then because they could have been seriously injured.”

She said the storm also downed power lines onto Middle Road, causing traffic to come to a standstill until police arrived to direct motorists away from the area.

Power at Island Cuisine was restored shortly after 1.30pm.

Reggie Raynor, owner of Raynor's Southampton Service Station, said the station's generator kept the lights on but customers were diverted away from the area due to the downed power lines.

“The pole went down by the MarketPlace and once police blocked off traffic people weren't able to come here, although they did let through the company van,” he said. “We were pretty heavily affected. It wasn't a great morning.

“It was unfortunate, but what can you do? I guess they just wanted to make sure everything was safe.”

A thunderstorm advisory and small craft warning was in effect over the Island for most of yesterday as a trough to the south of Bermuda brought heavy rain and strong winds.

Meteorologists at the Bermuda Weather Service said around 1.42 inches of rain were recorded between 6.43am and 1.23pm, when the weather cleared up.

Conditions are expected to continue improving today with sunny periods and occasional showers.

Power out: The juncture of Middle Road and Camp Hill Road experienced power outages which affected around 1,300 homes yesterday.
Power out: The juncture of Middle Road and Camp Hill Road experienced power outages which affected around 1,300 homes yesterday.
Power out: The juncture of Middle Road and Camp Hill Road experienced power outages which affected around 1,300 homes yesterday.
No plans to put entire power system underground

Belco has no plans to move the Island’s energy distribution system entirely underground due to the high cost.

However, a company spokeswoman said half of the system is already underground and underground cabling is used in all new projects.

Following 2003’s Hurricane Fabian, when 25,000 customers were left without power, Belco president Garry Madeiros estimated the cost of moving the distribution system underground would be around $250 million.

A spokeswoman said yesterday the cost for such an undertaking would be even greater now, citing the increased costs of construction work.

“Retroactively undergrounding is a very expensive alternative, and the price would be higher than it was a decade ago,” she said.

“Undergrounding the entire system would require funding and the involvement of Government and property owners. There are no discussions currently taking place on this topic.”

She also noted that along with the high cost, underground cables have their own set of problems. While underground cables may be more secure during storms, repairing any underground faults that do occur takes longer as the faults must be located and the area excavated before work can begin.

However, she said around 50 percent of the distribution system, which carries electricity from the substations to customers, is already underground.

All of the Island’s transmission system, which carries power from the plant to the Island’s substations is currently underground.

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Published August 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 16, 2013 at 12:33 am)

Power restored after lightning strike

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