Fallen tree knocks out power

September 17, 2003 11:00 pm

A fallen tree knocked out power to virtually all of Del Norte County Wednesday evening, darkening homes and closing many businesses.

The outage began just after 7 p.m., when a tree fell onto a Pacific Power Co. electrical line near the intersection of Kings Valley Road and Highway 101 in the Fort Dick area.

Lights throughout the county flickered back on momentarily at about 9:10 p.m., but then went off again before power was finally restored a little more than an hour later.

"We tried to bring up the whole county at once, but it was just too much of a load and everything shut down again," said Aaron Gratias, operations supervisor in Crescent City for Pacific Power.

After the initial effort to restore power all at once failed, electrical service was restored around the county bit by bit. The power came back on in Smith River at about 10:15 p.m., but not until about 10:30 p.m. in downtown Crescent City.The power outage delayed production of The Daily Triplicate for more than three hours last night.

"We know some of our readers will be getting their newspapers later than usual on Thursday morning. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause," said Mike Schmeltzer, editor of The Daily Triplicate.

About 11,000 residential and commercial customers were affected by the countywide outage, according to Gratias.

Tsunami Lanes in Crescent City was full of league bowlers when the lights went out.

"We were packed," said Jason Short, who works as a cook in the bowling center's restaurant. "The restaurant was busy and the bar was full." Short said he had five orders on the stove when the outage hit.

"Everything just went black," said 21-year-old Korey Moak, who was there, waiting to watch a friend bowl, when the outage hit.

Emergency lighting kicked in for about 30 minutes, but soon that dimmed and the bowling center was evacuated.

"People kind of waited around for a while to see if the lights would come back on, but then they just went home," Moak said.

The Safeway store in Crescent City kept its doors open for about 90 minutes after the outage hit, but was finally forced to close at about 8:30. The store's emergency generators kept its freezers cold and its aisles lit. But the store's parking lot was so dark that managers decided it wasn't safe for customers.

"If we had lights in the parking lot, we could have stayed open," said Brian Campbell, who was turning away would-be shoppers at the store's door. "It's so dark, it's dangerous out there."

At Denny's, where empty tables were lit by candlelight Wednesday evening, assistant manager Brandon Sampels taped a hand-lettered "closed" sign to the door of the restaurant that has long advertised itself as "always open."

Even with the power out, the Surfside Brewery stayed open – on a limited basis.

"Just because the lights go out doesn't mean you can't pour beer," said co-owner Lori Cowan.

"We were driving around looking for a place to eat," said 22-year-old Jarrod Wyatt, who was sitting at the bar with Jeremy Hemmingen, 27. "We couldn't eat, so we decided to just have a beer instead."

The Surfside was lit by a generator, but there wasn't enough power to run the kitchen.

"We had a full restaurant when the power went out," said co-owner Ken Cowan. ""We had 30 orders in the kitchen and another party of eight had just come in.

"Something like this happens, it costs me at least a couple of thousand dollars in lost business. But what are you going to do? You just keep smiling."