Northern Tier residents lose power for 2nd time in a week

WELLSBORO – More than 17,000 electric customers across the Northern Tier lost power at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday until about 2 a.m. Wednesday, following an equipment failure at a Penelec substation in Towanda. It was the second power outage in a week.

“It was different devices that took the same system down. I hope they’re flukes. Penelec is addressing the issue right now,” said Craig Ecker, of Tri-County Electric Cooperative.

Customers shouldn’t expect ongoing outages, although Ecker couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.

“The transmission line is 115,000 volts and hardened, from a reliability standpoint,” Ecker said.

Penelec’s transmission line provides bulk power from Towanda to Smethport. Tri-County Electric Cooperative and Wellsboro Electric tie into the Penelec line to deliver power to additional customers, especially in rural areas.

Except for Mansfield and some nearby areas, everyone on the Penelec line lost power.

“Of our 18,500 customers, 13,000 were without power,” Ecker added.

All 6,200 Wellsboro Electric customers lost power.

Tioga County had the highest reported outages, affecting nearly 9,000 residents. Bradford County had 3,500 residents without power. More than 2,000 residents were left in the dark in Potter and Sullivan counties.

Penelec was able to transmit power to Mansfield from Liberty by backfeeding, a strategy that provides energy from an alternative source.

“For example, if service transmits east to west, service is switched from west to east,” Ecker said.

The cooperative was able to backfeed people living in the Morris area from Liberty.

“We also backfed people in Germania from our Leidy substation in northern Clinton County,” Ecker said.

Many businesses in the blackout area had to shut down, including the Wellsboro McDonald’s. The Wellsboro Diner stayed open, however, and served simple sandwiches.

“Commercial accounts and retail stores take an economic hit because of not being able to provide services. There’s also the inconvenience factor to customers,” Ecker said.

He added, “we’re all in this boat together.”

“In the heat of the moment there’s always complaints, but I haven’t seen any formal complaints,” Ecker said.

Sun-Gazette correspondent Lonnie Frost contributed to this report.