Power outage affects 828 MDU customersA squirrel which got into electrical equipment produced a power outage in North Dickinson Sunday morning, causing parishioners at a local church to have mass outside. The outage reportedly occurred at 8:18 a.m. and in some areas lasted over two hours.
By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press
A squirrel which got into electrical equipment produced a power outage in North Dickinson Sunday morning, causing parishioners at a local church to have mass outside.
The outage reportedly occurred at 8:18 a.m. and in some areas lasted over two hours.
Michelle Schock, business manager at the Queen of Peace Parish in Dickinson, said Father Joshua Ehli was in the middle of his homily when the lights went out. Those attending mass thought they may have smelled something burning after the power failure.
“As we were looking to find out what the problem was, we did detect a smell of something that could be burning in our electrical area, so at that point is when we evacuated the church,” Schock said, adding there was not a fire. “When we needed to clear the building, we just finished our mass outside.”
She said everyone remained calm during the ordeal, and the outdoor mass went well.
Jacob Zettel, electric superintendant with Montana Dakota Utilities, said it’s unclear how, but the squirrel got into the substation on 21st Street East.
“It got between our energized parts and ground,” Zettel said, adding employees found the squirrel deceased. “It did short out but we also did have an arrestor damaged. I wouldn’t call it an explosion, but it did melt considerably and break up into pieces.”
He said while there was an electrical arc, there was not a fire.
The area affected by the outage was 21st Street and south to 12th Street and between Prairie Oak Drive and 4th Avenue East.
“We were able to reroute circuits to de-energize the sub completely and feed everyone else from alternate sources. By about 10:30 in the morning we had the last circuit on,” Zettel said.
The outage also caused the Dickinson Police Department some communications problems.
“We lost our radio systems for about an hour,” said Dickinson Police Lt. Dave Wallace. “We didn’t go out of business we just couldn’t do some of the paging.”
Wallace said the department communicated through cell phones, and had some use of their radios. He said nothing else at the department was interrupted.
“We have an emergency generator here so we were fine,” Wallace said.
Zettel said crews worked to repair equipment Monday, with damages amounting to less than $5,000.
MDU is trying to find ways to keep wildlife out of their equipment, Zettel said.
“We’re looking on making those changes, but it just seems like as much as you try to prevent it, they always find a way to get in,” Zettel said.
Schock said power at the Queen of Peace Parish returned in time to hold the 10 a.m. mass inside.
“If we did not have power, we planned on having church with a candle light service at 10 o’clock,” Schock said.
She added there was an electrician at mass who took a look at their electrical components and made sure it was safe to move back into the building.