WORTHINGTON — Wednesday’s unexpected power outage that affected some of the area's communities impacted Worthington businesses and residents.
Power went out about noon Wednesday. It was fully restored in Worthington at around 6:15 p.m. later that day.
In the meantime, Worthington was powered by a combination of a 14-megawatt local generator and an alternate, limited transmission feed, said Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain.
A day like Wednesday afternoon isn’t cheap. Hain said it’s significantly more expensive to power homes and businesses by local generation than buying the electricity supplied by transmission lines.
Hain called Wednesday afternoon’s delivery of energy an operational loss. However, WPU will cover the costs from its operating revenues. WPU will not impose a surcharge, and customers will be billed at their normal retail rate, he said.
Many businesses compared the recent April ice storm to how they continued to handle business amidst Wednesday’s power outage. While the April storm knocked out power for up to several days in some areas, rolling blackouts were on a regular schedule that businesses and residents could easily anticipate.
Bob and Steve’s Holiday Co-Owner Michelle Metz described Wednesday’s outage as more sporadic. Just like during the spring ice storm, Metz said the locally owned station at the corner of Oxford Street and Humiston Avenue stayed open.
“We were here for our customers,” she said, adding that customers were generally understanding and paid with cash or card thanks to a backup battery.
During the sporadic moments power was back on, Metz said cars would flood the station for the chance to pump gas.
“There were lines,” she said.
The unexpected power outage began during the noon hour, which left restaurants in a scramble.
At Worthington’s McDonald's, manager Steve Miller said the fast food chain struggled through the outage that “certainly impacted business” in the best way they could.
Without a generator, Miller said the restaurant had to close. They’d planned on re-opening, but with no clear estimate of when power may be restored, the decision was made at around 4 p.m. to send everyone home.
“It takes 30 to 40 minutes to fire everything up,” Miller said, commending his employees for handling things well. “It’s not fair to the customers. It’s just easier to close and take the burden off the employees and customers both and just move on to the next day.”
Miller said the business may have to consider purchasing a generator. With that, though, comes the need to maintain it and other decisions, like which half of the restaurant to power.
Sanford Worthington and its patients depend upon a quality generator, which kicked in Wednesday within five seconds of the power being cut.
“For us the challenge is those five seconds of darkness and our adjustment,” said Sanford Worthington Executive Director Jennifer Weg. “Then we go into decision-making mode, which was a challenge (Wednesday) because of the unknown down time.”
According to Weg, Sanford experienced no patient safety issues as a result of the outage.
“But we did inconvenience our patients,” she said, adding that they were all very understanding.
To ensure walk-in, acute care needs were met, an alternate clinic site was opened within the hospital due to the clinic not having a generator backup, Weg said.
Weg said during a widespread power outage, there is a heightened concern for home care patients with oxygen needs. While Sanford’s patients are given a back-up plan, the provider also calls patients if the problem persists to ensure they’re OK.
“That was our No. 1 concern,” Weg said. “Those needs were met to our knowledge.”