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Switch Malfunction Causes Power Outage


May 22, 2005 – Problems with a switch connected to an underground feeder played havoc with the electrical distribution system for St. Thomas and St. John on Sunday.
Officials at the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority say the problem caused a cascade of problems, temporarily knocking out the utility's largest generator and the internal communications system at the WAPA. It left St. Thomas and St. John out of power and sparked at fire on a utility pole on the eastern end of St. Thomas.
Shortly before noon Sunday, WAPA's operations chief said engineers were getting the upper hand.
"We had a fault on a switch just before the Beltjen Road substation, one of our underground feeds to the substation. Since that's before the substation, that fault fed directly back to the plant, taking out the breaker at the plant and tripping Unit 23, which was on line at the time," said Glen Rothgeb, WAPA's chief operating officer.
Within about an hour and a half, emergency crews had restored power to much of the Charlotte Amalie town area, major portions of northwestern St. Thomas and St. John. Rothgeb said areas near Beltjen Road and the Havensight area would probably be the last to have power restored, but he predicted that should be done by 2 pm.
It's the second time in less than a week that the town area has been hit by a lengthy outage. Around mid-morning Wednesday, two feeders providing power to most of Charlotte Amalie went out at the same time, WAPA spokeswoman Patricia Blake Simmonds said. The problem was repaired within two hours.

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