June 26, 2005
MANITOU SPRINGS - What was thought — for a time — to have been an exploding transformer at the Manitou Springs Hydroelectric Plant on Saturday caused a power outage here and prompted firefighters to scramble in case of fire or injuries.
It was merely a broken ceramic lightning arrestor. Nothing blew up, and there were no injuries. “It turned out to be nothing,” said Steve Berry, Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman. But it didn’t start like that. When an alarm notified Utilities officials there was a problem at the plant, located near the cog railway, they also got a call from an area resident who thought he had heard an explosion, Berry said. With only that information, they called 911 as a precaution. “Calling 911 is protocol,” said Dan Tadie, plant superintendent. “The alarm is designed to cause us to overreact.” Meanwhile, much of the downtown area lost power just after 9 a.m. Saturday. Firefighters and police were able to communicate with backup generators and battery-powered units. Every available Fire Department volunteer was called into the station in case of fire or injuries. Other firefighters scrambled to help a person stuck in an elevator at the Cliff House, and several residences where patients on oxygen live, said Steve Schopper, Fire Department spokesman. Power was restored about an hour later, Berry said. The noise the resident heard was the ceramic arrestor falling and breaking apart on a metal door, Berry said. It was probably broken by a prior lightning strike or an animal. It was replaced Saturday. The 100-year-old plant uses mountain water to create electricity for about 3,000 homes and businesses in the area.