Sept. 16, 2002 – Heavy rains and lightning brought on by a weekend storm left Virgin Islanders throughout the territory without power early Monday morning, with the situation compounded on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island by technical problems at the main Krumm Bay plant on St. Thomas.
A Water and Power Authority spokesperson said that as of 5:23 a.m., virtually all of the utility's 25,000 customers in the territory were without power. For most, service was restored by later Monday morning, but the outage affected several public schools on St. Thomas.
"Practically all of the schools were affected, but the one with the greatest impact was Michael Kirwan," William Frett, St. Thomas-St. John district schools superintendent, said. The elementary school located near the University of the Virgin Islands campus "had to be dismissed," he said.
On St. Croix, rain and lightning caused Feeder 10 to trip twice for some five to 10 minutes around 10 p.m. Sunday and again at 6:45 a.m. Monday, WAPA reported, and brief outages were reported in isolated areas of the island.
WAPA crews were working on pockets that remained powerless on St. Thomas and St. Croix through mid-day.
Glenn Rothgeb, WAPA acting executive director, said the problems that knocked out power on St. Croix were minor, brought on by rain and lightning that blew some fuses, but on St. Thomas, the problems were more involved.
"With the rain last night, we did have some damage to the plant," Rothgeb, a former chief engineer with the authority, said. "On two units we had a flash-over, so we have two units down."
A release issued by WAPA later stated that "an electrical flash-over caused by water damage on Unit 12's generator bus conductors tripped the entire plant. Unit 18 also had a similar, subsequent flash-over at its bus conductors but was less severe and limited to the unit itself."
The situation worsened briefly on St. Thomas as workers at the main power plant in Krumm Bay improperly started a burner supplying power for two electricity feeders, sending a spiral of smoke high into the air over the plant. "What happened was the burners just tripped out on Unit 12," Rothgeb said. "They were going through quite a few things at the same time. By relighting and restarting it, they put in too much oil and not enough air."
Callers trying to reach WAPA to report power outages faced the additional frustration of telephone problems at the utility's executive offices on St. Thomas.
WAPA "completed restoration of all electrical service in the St. Thomas-St. John-Water Island district at 12:45 p.m. by putting additional units on line and trying feeders together," the release stated.
By Monday afternoon, Rothgeb said, the biggest task remaining was restarting one of the large generators at the Krumm Bay plant, which he said could take another day. Electrical service should not be immediately affected by having one generator out of service, he said, projecting that most customers would have power restored by the end of Monday.
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