Storm cleanup: Utility, city crews work to repair countywide damage

Crews with Duke Energy continue to deal with the aftermath of a series of storms that moved through southern Indiana early Wednesday morning.

At one point after the storms moved out, more than 7,700 customers in the Seymour area were without power, including downtown businesses, schools, residences and businesses across the city.

The most serious issue involved a substation that caught fire after being struck by lightning at 10th and O’Brien streets on the city’s northeast side. Duke brought in two portable substations from corporate headquarters in Plainfield to restore power to those affected by the outage.

Duke spokesman Chip Orben said Thursday morning that the company had some work to do before that substation could be put back in service.

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“The fire was pretty intense and burnt up or damaged equipment in the substation, which will need to be either fixed or replaced,” Orben said. “We also have a root cause analysis that will be done to try to best understand why we had the issues we did and make any necessary changes to avoid them in the future.”

A second major outage involved a wooden transmission pole that broke at about 1 p.m. Wednesday at Tipton Street and Airport Road. That impacted about 900 Duke customers, who were eventually switched to a different circuit. Airport Road remained closed Thursday as crews replaced the wooden pole with a steel pole, which is more durable and part of company policy, Orben said.

Students with Seymour Community Schools received a break because of outages, getting both Wednesday and Thursday off.

“We had no guarantee that we would have power this morning,” Superintendent Rob Hooker said Thursday.

He said students were in the midst of ISTEP+ testing, and the corporation’s test coordinator is working with principals to get the missed days made up during the testing, which ends March 10. That period began Monday.

The corporation also lost perishable food items in coolers and refrigerators and didn’t have enough food for breakfast and lunch Thursday, Hooker said.

“The milk in the coolers Tuesday had to be thrown away, and fresh milk arrived this afternoon,” he said.

The corporation had three make-up days built into this year’s calendar and will not have to use all three to make up for missed days, Hooker said.

“We should be all right if nothing else happens,” he said.

The first outages in Seymour were reported at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. By 1 a.m. Thursday, power had been restored to all but about 100 customers, Orben said. At noon Thursday, Jackson County REMC had 400 customers without power, including 18 in Jackson County. Spokeswoman Nicole Ault said the company expected to restore service to all by the end of the day.

“We had a combination of Duke and our contractors working on the restoration efforts,” he said. “We moved several Duke crews, including back-office folks, to our Seymour location throughout the day.”

Some help came from north of the area, which was not as badly impacted by the storms as southern Indiana, he said.

“We had contractors as well assist, and they also came from throughout the state,” Orben said. “I know some of the workers were from Kentucky, but again, they were our contractors. The total at the height of the storm was close to 70 folks, who were spread out at our two primary locations.”

Orben said Duke personnel are limited to working 16 hours before they have to take a mandatory eight-hour break.

“So we rotated crews in an and out to ensure we had boots on the ground for almost the entirety of the storm,” he said.

A sewer cave-in on Emma Drive off South O’Brien Street also may been related to the rain. Emma Drive and Holiday Drive were closed Thursday, and repairs may run into today, according to Mayor Craig Luedeman’s office.