Power plant’s transformer is hit by lightning

Lightning flashed and the power crashed last week. After a brief but heavy rainfall Monday morning, Sept. 18, the City of Sabetha suffered from a series of power blinks and extended outages Monday into Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, City Administrator Doug Allen said the cause of the outages and blinks was a lightning strike to the city’s power plant equipment. Though Harold K. Scholz, Co. out of Ralston, Neb., along with city crews worked on it Monday evening and Tuesday, the exact location of the problem was not pinpointed until later in the week.

By Friday, Allen said, the problem had been located and it was confirmed the cause of the outages was a lightning strike to the power plant’s transformer, which was installed in early 2017.

On a transformer, Allen said, a “tap changer” regulates the voltage in the electrical system. As a general rule, Allen said, Sabetha’s tap runs from plus 1 to plus 8.

“We think the lightning hit between taps 3 and 4 and then exited out between taps 6 and 7.

Every time it hit, it would send a power surge, Allen said.

When crews determined this was what happened, power to the whole city was switched off at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, for about five minutes. At this time, crews were able to manually adjust the tap changer so it would not hit those damaged links.

Moving forward

Parts will be ordered to repair the transformer, but it may be awhile before it is completely repaired.

“Quite honestly with all the hurricanes that have been going on, parts are hard to come by,” Allen said. “It is not a perfect scenario.”

When parts do arrive, crews will need to wait until a nice fall or spring day before working on the transformer.

“We will need a nice fall day or spring day when the load is light because we will have to use generators to power the town during the repair,” Allen said.

Though it may be some time before everything is up and running 100 percent, Allen said he does not expect any additional problems nor will there be any interruption of power when the repairs are being completed.

“I learned more about electricity in the last four days than I have in the previous 26 years with the city,” Allen said.

The cost of the damage to the equipment, in addition to the labor costs, is not known at this time. Allen said many local companies helped out donating labor and equipment.

Krista Wasinger70 Posts

Krista Wasinger is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2011. She specializes in city reporting and feature stories, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Krista is a 2004 Fort Hays State University graduate with a degree in communications studies with an emphasis in journalism. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and four children.


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