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Mysterious power outage hits Ashland for several hours

ASHLAND ' The hospital, City Hall and 3,575 customers were without power for three hours Monday because of a mysterious glitch at an Ashland substation.

Generators kept equipment humming at Ashland Community Hospital, City Hall, the water treatment plant and the sewer plant, said Dick Wanderscheid, director of electrical and telecommunications for the city of Ashland.

Our line showed there was a fault but we never could identify it, Wanderscheid said. Everyone is kind of scratching their heads over it.

Martino's Italian Restaurant located next to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, closed its doors and forfeited about &

36;1,200 in sales, said bar manager Sean Johnnie.

We usually close for lunch Monday because the theater is dark but we opened especially today for the Daedalus Project, he said.

The outage did not hinder the fundraiser for HIV/AIDS organizations scheduled at Oregon Shakespeare Festival Monday evening, he said.

The 11:15 a.m. outage was caused by a fault that relayed information to a substation on Nevada Street, said Monte Mendenhall, Pacific Power's regional community manager. Protective devices in the substation tested the line and then locked the system down. Usually, a fault is caused by a tree limb on a line or a similar incident, Mendenhall said. But crews could find no sign of tree interference.

Power was restored for Pacific Power's 575 customers at 1:35 p.m. and at 2 p.m. for Ashland's 3,000 customers, about one-third of the residences and businesses served by the city's electric company.

City equipment and Pacific Power equipment are served by the same transmission line coming into the substation, Mendenhall said.

Ashland's last widespread power outage was in 1990, Wanderscheid said. He plans to begin researching the blackout today.

We'll download the computers and try to trace everything back to the sequence of events and determine what happened, he said.

The outage was perplexing because of Monday's cooler temperatures, prompting less air conditioner use and lighter electrical loads, he said.

If this would have happened last week it would be easier to explain, Wanderscheid said.

The lights stayed on at Lithia Fountain and Grill, even though nearby businesses were dark, said owner Lori Forrest.

Last week, the power was out for two hours at our place and we lost a lot of business, Forrest said. But today, we were the only ones with power and it helped us make up for last week.

Reach reporter Melissa Martin at 776-4497, or e-mail