A power failure left several downtown Decatur businesses, including the Wise County Messenger, without power for several hours Friday.
Although customers all over town reported a brief power failure around 8:45 a.m., power immediately came back on for all but about 20 customers on the east side of the Decatur Square.
Inside the Messenger office, the power went out, then attempted to come back on – accompanied by a loud grinding sound – before going off again.
In the alley behind the building, sparks were flying from power lines, and a couple of small grass fires flared up at the base of the poles. Liquid poured from a busted transformer onto the ground and vehicles below.
The Decatur Fire Department and Decatur Police patrol units responded to shut down roads in the immediate area. Firefighters used sand to contain the leaking liquid until the power company could arrive.
For about a two-block area, stretching from the Messenger office at 115 S. Trinity up to Walnut Street, businesses on the east side of the road placed signs in their windows indicating they were closed due to the lack of power.
That included Rooster’s Roadhouse, a restaurant located in the shadow of the Wise County Courthouse. Around 11:30 Friday morning, the restaurant would normally be busy with lunchtime customers, but instead, the place remained dark inside.
General Manager Mark Morris said all of his employees were at work when the power went out, but had not yet begun preparing for lunch. He told them to stick around and they’d start to work as soon as the power came back on. But with noon quickly approaching, and close to an hour needed to get everything up and running, it was clear he was going to lose lunchtime business.
“I’m afraid lunch will be over by then and people will have found somewhere else to eat lunch today,” Morris said.
Power was restored to the restaurant around 12:30 p.m.
Since Friday is the day the Messenger builds the Saturday paper, computers, printers and servers were moved across the street to the Decatur Visitors Center and a temporary newsroom was set up in the back of the building.
Oncor Area Manager Sabrina Easley said it was an odd situation that led to the power failure.
“We had three distinct issues going on, and none of them have any correlation to the other,” she said.
A line burned at the intersection of Pecan and Market streets, a line burned in a separate spot nearby – which caused damage to the transformer behind the Messenger office – and a transformer bank behind Rooster’s, a block away, also was damaged.
Easley said it was odd that a transformer bank located between those two was not damaged.
The three events took place within just a few seconds of each other.
Because of the extremely dry air in place Friday morning, it’s possible static electricity traveled along the line, causing the damage – but Easley said there was no way to prove it. The dew point at the time of the power failure was 2 degrees with an air temperature of 15.