CWL and other power companies struggle with cooling demands

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Approximately 400-500 City Water and Light (CWL) customers experienced power outages Monday because of a heavy load demand and weak spots in the system.

CWL is trying to deal with the heat. Kevin Inboden, with CWL, said yesterday's short-term blackout was due to excessive heat and failures in the lines. Unfortunately, Inboden says those things just happen when the weather is hot.

Inboden, "When we have high temperatures like this, the load goes up on our system. There's more current flowing through the wires, so if you have weak points in your system that have developed over time sometimes they fail when they're loaded up the way they were yesterday."

Jessica Reid was filling prescriptions at the Super D located off Caraway and Flint on Monday when the power went out.

Reid, "The power just went completely off, we were expecting it to come right back on, but it didn't."

They use a lot of electricity in the drug store.

Reid "Everything is electrical here. From the computers to the air conditioning to the lights to the doors opening and closing."

Reid said she had no idea how long the power was going to be down and how it would affect business.

Reid, " I made a call to City Water and Light to see what was going on and that's when we noticed the police officers directing traffic and they said a substation had went down."

This was the first heat-related outage in Jonesboro this year. It spread from a substation near Annie Camp Junior High School.

Inboden traced the path of the outage on a wall sized diagram in the control center.

Inboden, "The light blue circuit which is fed out of that substation then comes down along college and then along Jonesboro high school, feeds across main street and back around Wilkins. That was the area that was out."

Inboden says its nearly impossible to prevent failures from happening. He says CWL crews do their best to keep up with bad spots but with over hundreds of miles of lines to monitor, things happen.

CWL can generate it's own electricity at it's generating plant. There are 5 jet engines that feed electricity into the city and the nation wide power grid.

At the plant, the generators are running, but not for what reasons you might think. They are not supplying electricity to the city currently.

Inboden, "By our cranking up our local generation, that helps to give another supply point for electricity up in this area around Northeast Arkansas. " Of course, Inboden says. "If we need power for the city it can be instantly transferred."

Even though the power was out for only a short time, it still had an economic impact.

Reid, "We closed for the time, the thirty minutes and we would only do emergency prescriptions, but other than that we wouldn't let anyone pick up anything."

And of course no power means no air conditioning. It was hot with temperatures outside in the triple digits.

Reid, "Even after the electricity came back on, our air didn't come back on for a couple minutes. I'd say about an hour, maybe. Once it did, it was hot air."

High temperatures with high heat indexes are expected to last through the week.

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