LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Power was restored to all Athens Utilities customers Tuesday night after weekend storms damaged the Greenbrier substation.
Officials say 3,500 customers were affected by the outage. Around 400 were still affected at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, almost two full days in the dark.
Linemen worked throughout the afternoon Tuesday going subdivision by subdivision along County Line Road to restore power to the remaining customers.
Athens Utilities said the substation was likely damaged by lightning during Saturday’s severe weather or Sunday’s winter weather. Athens Utilities Electric Department Manager Blair Davis said the former would be the worst-case scenario.
“We’re having to bring these customers back on a little at a time because the temporary fixes are not as stable when it comes to meeting the heat demands in this weather,” Davis explained. “Bringing everyone online at the same time would make the system unstable.”
AU arranged for Limestone County residents 60 and older impacted by the outage to go to a local senior center for warmth while the work continued. They provided rides and also allowed a caregiver to go with them if needed. In addition, Madison’s Dublin Park was made available for those to charge their phones or laptops.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks visited the Greenbrier Substation Tuesday to see the damage.
“It’s a tall transformer system,” said the mayor. “It’s not like the one that’s on your power pole that you look at… It was charred and the porcelain pieces were just blown from different places so you can tell without a doubt that it was struck because the porcelain slabs were off as far as 30 yards away.”
With a charred piece of equipment, it can take a while to find alternate power sources for the 3,500 homes that lost electricity. The company used mobile transformers and pulled power from General Electric’s substation near Greenbrier.
News 19 visited the Oxford neighborhood off of County Line Road Tuesday afternoon, where about half of the residents were still without power. Several said power came on around 1:00 a.m. before shutting back off only 30 minutes later.
Jim Parker lives in the neighborhood and stayed positive about the situation.
“Well, you know things happen and it’s not in my control,” he said. “I’m just putting my kerosene heater together. She says we’ve had it ten years, ‘Why don’t you put it together?’ I said ‘Oh okay, I’ll do that.’ And I got a generator running out back to preserve the refrigerator.”
One notable customer that lost power: The Target Distribution Center off Greenbrier Parkway. Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks confirmed their status to News 19 shortly before noon Monday.
Residents in the Westlake neighborhood, off Swancott Road, were another group dealing with the power outage. News 19 spoke with several homeowners using their cars to find warmth and charge cell phones. One resident was seen cooking on an outside grill to make warm food for her family.
Brittany Bankston has lived in the neighborhood for the past three years. She says while there have been outages in the past, none have lasted this long.
“Really just been trying to stay warm,” Bankston said. “Most of the time I put on layers and layers of clothes stayed in bed, and then I realized that my dog needed to get out so I did my best to do that. But now, I finally figured out how to open my garage with no power and we’re going to find someplace warm.”
Bankston said she has family living in Decatur and plans on staying with them until power is restored.
Officials say the power outage began around 12:45 a.m. Monday for most customers in the area and it was not fully restored until around 10 p.m. Tuesday.