• Last modified 348 days ago (Aug. 9, 2018)


Power failure costly to downtown businesses

Staff writer

Most of downtown Marion was forced to close for much of the day Thursday after a series of power failures blew out one of the city’s prime electrical circuits.

Many businesses lost almost an entire day’s worth of revenue.

“I’ve worked here 23 years,” pharmacist Tracy Lanning said, “and we’ve never had to get a generator. We have somebody coming out, hopefully this week, to give us some quotes.”

FamLee Bakery had completed only part of a catering order for a Tabor College event when the power, which had fluctuated on and off, failed for several hours.

“We decided to close at 11 o’clock,” co-owner Catie Zurcher said. “The lunch crowd normally shows up between 11:30 and noon.”

Her brother, Ryan Lee, had to leave part of the Tabor order behind.

“They have a bunch of stuff in the cooler and are hoping it stays cool,” he said.

Central National Bank attempted to keep its drive-through lane open for part of the afternoon but eventually gave up, closed, and directed customers to its Hillsboro branch.

“Closed until further notice” was the sign on Lanning Pharmacy’s front door, where customers also were sent to Hillsboro — albeit to a competing pharmacy.

Phones didn’t work, so calls could not be taken. Customers with new prescriptions could take them to a competitor in Hillsboro, but refills had to wait until Friday.

“We were very busy Friday,” Tracy Lanning said, “but there were no complaints. Everybody was pretty understanding.”

Her business, however, probably made no profit. Lanning was out for the day and had to pay a substitute pharmacist a full day’s pay to do just four hours’ work.

Still, she wasn’t as upset with this power failure as she was with a previous one.

“I was more upset last time, when my photo printing machine was completely fried,” she said.

City electric superintendent Clayton Garnica said the initial failure stemmed from a Westar Energy breaker that tripped in the Florence area.

When Westar got electricity flowing again, switches at Marion’s substation began to fail.

The area affected the longest was mostly Main St. and north, although some businesses along the south side of Main were closed because of the outage as well.

Marion announced the power failure on a social media page, although only citizens with smartphone who thought to check there could see it.

The announcement said an antiquated switching system, already scheduled for replacement, had failed and was being replaced by a new system that already had been delivered.

The notice also offered to let residents use the city building, which has a backup generator.

Only one person was in City Hall to use power.

Ralph Noriega sat in the basement charging his cell phone, which he said was nearly dead. He’d wanted to get a haircut, but his barbershop was closed.

Becky Makovec was the lone worker in the city office.

“Originally they told me three hours, and then it was early evening,” she said. “It was just one switch and they are trying to bypass it.”

Makovec said she’d had a steady flow of people coming to the office to ask why the power was off and when it would be back on.

“We had one person call to ask if we had a generator loan program, and we’ don’t,” she said. “I did say they could come here.”

The outage also affected Jim Davis, who operates a heating and air conditioning business. After checking generators at St. Luke Hospital, Davis said he would spend the afternoon mowing lawns.

St. Luke marketing director Roger Schroeder said generators are checked frequently during a power outage to ensure power stays flowing.

“We have to have those operational — we have to have power,” Schroeder said.

City administrator Roger Holter said lightning arresters just south of the substation exploded when the power surged as Westar got electricity flowing.

City electric workers put fuses outside the building that houses the lightning arresters to get power back on.

A contractor will rebuild the components, and work is expected to be completed within six weeks, Holter said.side of Main St. were closed because of the outage as well.

Last modified Aug. 9, 2018