Power in the city of Russell may be back online as early as 6 p.m. Thursday on a day when temperatures reached into the mid-90s.
That's barring any snags in the emergency repairs now underway by crews from Sunflower Electric Power, Hays, and Western Cooperative Electric, Wakeeney.
“If all goes right we are projecting early evening,” said Dennis Deines of Western's member services, “barring all complications.”
Crews are installing a temporary mobile transformer at a Western Cooperative substation just off a chalk road 3 miles east of Russell.
The substation provides electricity to the city of Russell with power generated by Sunflower Electric. Western distributes power to communities in 13 counties in west central Kansas and is a member-owner of Sunflower, which is the generation and transmission supplier to its members.
The substation’s transformer tripped a switch after failure of a load tap changer, a mechanical part that ensures the transformer operates safely and efficiently, Deines said.
That caused the outage when it disrupted the flow of 115,000 volts of electricity into the substation, which is normally lowered to 34,500 volts and then transmitted to Russell.
“Western and Sunflower are working as hastily as we can to restore power as quickly as possible,” Deines said.
Power through the substation, and supplied through the transmission lines, is purchased and operated by the city of Russell, which also has its own production and distribution system. City power crews were busy in utility bucket trucks on Thursday rerouting electricity where possible to bring small patches of the city online.
Sunflower brought in the mobile transformer mounted on a flatbed trailer as part of an emergency restoration because repair parts for the load tap changer were not immediately available. Linemen and substation technicians were working under clear skies and warm temperatures Thursday afternoon to build, energize, check and test the giant transformer.
Meanwhile, Russell residents made do. At Waudby’s Sports Bar & Grill, 719 N. Main Street, a four-man crew from Kingsbury Concrete Construction was eating cold ham sandwiches for lunch.
With power out, Kingsbury’s concrete mixer and batch plant were out of commission, said owner Nathan Kingsbury.
“These guys picked a good day to come to work,” said Kingsbury, who hadn’t decided yet whether he’d spring for lunch.
Shanda Kilian, Waudby’s owner, was also serving cold beer — or beer that had at least been on ice for a bit.
“We’re trying to provide for our community right now,” she said, amidst the small gathering of customers.
At the Russell grain elevator, convenience store manager Ashley Carter had made a pot of coffee for a couple of her regulars in the few minutes the electricity was on briefly earlier. But with the cash register and pumps shut down there was no commerce at the store. So far, ice cream in the cold case hadn’t melted.
“Luckily it’s staying cold enough as long as we don’t open it,” Carter said.
In the elevator’s office, branch manager Garrett Berry said the tire shop and 520,000-bushel capacity elevators were shut down by the power outage.
“We can still sell feed, cattle equipment and fencing supplies,” Berry said. “It’s one of those deals where you hope your pricing sheet is up to date.”
A part of the Great Bend Co-op, Russell thankfully isn’t bustling with harvest trucks yet.
“We should start seeing corn the second or third week of September,” he said.
The lights went out in Russell citywide at 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Hospital and emergency services are operating on back-up generators, according to police dispatch. Schools in the USD 407 system were closed for the day.