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Lightning strike likely cuts power once again in Ashland

Lightning from summer thunderstorms is once again the suspected cause of a Sunday evening power outage that lasted about an hour and a half and stretched from Northern California to Ashland, officials say.

A problem with one of Pacific Power's major transmission lines, located between the Weed Junction and Copco, temporarily derailed service to 25,400 customers, said Monte Mendenhall, regional community manager for Pacific Power.

The outage ran along the Interstate 5 corridor from Yreka, Calif. to Mount Shasta to Ashland. Power was interrupted at 5:04 p.m. and restored at 6:22 p.m. in Yreka and 6:30 p.m. in Ashland, said Bob Gravely, also a Pacific Power spokesman.

Crews quickly isolated the area of interrupted transmission, but they first had to search the impacted area to ensure there was no danger of fire before re-energizing the lines, Mendenhall said.

"They can isolate the area that's affected," Gravely said. "The crews explore the length of the line."

The exact cause of the electrical outage is still under investigation. But damage to the huge high-voltage transmission line is suspected to be caused by Mother Nature, Gravely said.

"This is not like when a car hits a power pole and the power goes out to a small area," he said. "This is a major transmission line. We suspect lightning was the cause (of the outage)."

A series of storm cells brought more than 200 lightning strikes sweeping across Siskiyou County during the same time frame, said Dan Weygand, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Medford.

Weygand said weather spotters were reporting strikes as a line of storms south of Yreka moved toward the Greensprings area then on to Klamath Falls.

Mendenhall and Gravely said Pacific Power crews continue to search for answers to the outtage.

Earlier in July thousands of Ashland residents and visitors were left without power when electricity went out unexpectedly for two hours beginning at 7:15 p.m. on July 15.

Like Sunday's outage, the mid-month loss of power came at busy time for local restaurants, movie theaters and those trying to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Pacific Power crews suspected lightning to be the culprit in the earlier outage and again launched a helicopter to search for damaged lines, Mendehall said.

Weygand said today will bring a pattern shift in the weather with a slight chance of of thunderstorms hitting the higher elevations in Ashland, Prospect and Butte Falls.