Utilities down after accidents

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 24, 1999

Alliant Energy crews scrambled twice Thursday to restore utilities in Albert Lea.

Friday, September 24, 1999

Alliant Energy crews scrambled twice Thursday to restore utilities in Albert Lea.

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Natural gas service was temporarily lost to two businesses and 733 homes and businesses lost electrical power in two separate incidents.

The first occurred at approximately 10 a.m. when a construction crew at the site of the former County Market at Bridge and Clark Streets struck a two-inch natural gas line.

Bill Hareid, operations manager for Alliant Energy, said utility crews were able to get to the leak within minutes and turn off the gas.

Still, three businesses – Fountain Warehouse Liquor, McDonalds and Wendys – were evacuated. The liquor store and McDonalds lost gas service.

Hareid said the concern centered around the amount of gas released.

&uot;You can get a lot of gas out of a two-inch line at 60 pounds (of pressure),&uot; he said.

The utility operations manager said wind helped disperse the gas coming from the line, making it less of a threat.

Albert Lea Fire Chief Rich Sydnes said other area businesses were tested, but the gas seemed to disperse enough before reaching them, meaning occupants were allowed to stay in the buildings.

&uot;We left them open because of the test results,&uot; he said.

The closed businesses were reopened within an hour, after the line was repaired and gas service was restored, said Hareid.

He noted digging at the new construction site was the cause.

The cause of the second utility outage in the city yesterday was a truck accident.

According to an Albert Lea Police spokesman, a truck toppled a utility pole at the intersection of Bridge Avenue and Hawthorne Street shortly before 1:30 p.m.

Keith Eyler, Alliant account manager, said the toppled pole disconnected a main feed line in the city, causing an outage for 733 residential, commercial and industrial customers, mainly along Hawthorn Street, but also along Richway Drive and other parts of northern Albert Lea.

A third of those customers had power restored within 40 minutes, while another third waited an additional 13 minutes.

Eyler said crews were steadily restoring the rest of the customers throughout the afternoon.

Other employees, however, were helping ensure safety during the outage.

&uot;Because of the incident’s proximity to Hawthorne (Elementary) School, we deployed extra employees to help children crossing streets from the school,&uot; he said.

The crews worked to route children away from the downed lines and work area.

Eyler said fast response and the fact that the downed pole was in Albert Lea aided in the quick restoration of power.

&uot;It could have been worse,&uot; he said.