Cable break kills power to Chamisa Elementary

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By Kirsten Laskey

Chamisa Elementary School students got an unexpected day off from school Monday.  

A failed cable in the electric line at the school caused a power outage Sunday night and the time needed to make repairs to the cable resulted in school being canceled.

Julie Williams-Hill, public relations director for the Department of Public Utilities, said the failed cable caused a utility pole to catch on fire and after Los Alamos Fire Department responded to the scene, they notified Ken Duncan, line supervisor, at 9:30 p.m. She said Duncan arrived at 9:45 p.m. Sunday but then had to leave to respond to another outage caused by lightning in the Villa neighborhood. Power was restored by 12:55 a.m. Monday.

A DPU press release said Chamisa was the only customer fed by the failed primary riser that transitioned the overhead electric system to the school’s underground electric system.  

Williams-Hill said the primary riser taps off the main electric lines that feed White Rock and brings power to Chamisa.

Officials decided to postpone repairing the damaged cable at Chamisa for several reasons.

“To replace the wire coming off the pole they would need to replace that whole wire,” Williams-Hill said. “At the top of the pole, they have live wires that are feeding that portion of White Rock so they would be working amongst live wires, and because the weather was bad and also because it was dark and (Duncan) had limited assistance, he decided it would be better to wait until 8 a.m. when he had a full crew and it would not be lightning and raining. It was really for safety reasons.”

Power returned to the school at about 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Los Alamos Public School Superintendent Gene Schmidt said he learned about the power outage at 11 p.m. Sunday.

Initially, he said the start of school for Chamisa would be delayed until 10 a.m., however, when it was estimated the power would probably be restored around noon, Schmidt said LAPS administrators decided to cancel school. State law will be looked at to see if Chamisa students will need to make up the missed day of school, but Schmidt said he believed they will not have to because the outage was unforeseen and affected one school.