Region 8 Blackout?

August 15, 2003- Posted at: 6:05 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, Ark.--How would region 8 deal with a blackout?

The lights are slowly coming back on in the Northeast after 50 million people were left in the dark due to a power grid failure. Region 8 is up and running at full power, with no outages to report, but could it happen here?

The short answer is yes, we could go black in region 8, but it's more complicated than that.

We are part of the national power grid system and Ron Bowen, manager of Jonesboro's City Water and Light, says with such a dependence on the system, a blackout is always a possibility. Bowen adds,

"it can happen there, it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. I think the good news is with our track record, 24/7 the lights are on."

But should the lights go out in Jonesboro, CWL is the largest public utility in Arkansas and in better shape than most to get back on line, with two new combustion turbines and black start capability.

Bowen says, "if we totally lose everything and go black, we can start a unit that can get enough power to start a generator that can start the other generators. We should be able to get back up on that. It would take a little while to do it, but not very long."

But Craighead Electric customers aren't so lucky, they're part of a cooperative that buys power from Arkansas Electric and so they are totally dependent on its power plant.

"We're dependent on them all the time, says Wayne Honeycutt, manager at Craighead Electric, "and our service has been exceptionally well over the last forty years. But when the whole system fails, you have to wait until the problem is corrected. It's out of your control and once they're problem is corrected, your customers are back up."