Archive for Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Pole hangs on by a wire; power restored to school

March 22, 2000

Spring break started about two hours early last Friday for some staff members at Tonganoxie Junior High School.

About 9:55 a.m., a small tractor operated by an employee at Lawn Care Unlimited, Leavenworth, clipped an electrical pole's guy wire, pulling its anchor from the ground. The 40-foot electrical pole near the driveway into the junior high from U.S. 24-40 Highway tilted about 30 degrees, sending live wires draping across a grassy area.

"It burned a spot out in the grass," said Larry Easter, a maintenance worker for the school district. "There was a ball of orange fire as big as my truck. It was really pretty."

Pat Armstrong, a bus driver, was in the school when the accident occurred. "The lights flickered once or twice, then they went out," she said.

For the next 2 1/2 hours, the junior high school building was dark, its halls illuminated by emergency lights. Some staff members, many who were in parent-teacher conferences, lit candles or flipped on flashlights. After it was clear neither the lights nor telephones would be working soon, most of the 32 staff members in the building left for spring break.

According to Jace Newman, manager of distribution operations for KPL, a 12,000-volt line was in peril of snapping. KPL workers installed new guy wire anchors before restoring power. "Until we got there, it was a dangerous situation," he said.

Often, KPL will bill whoever is responsible for a power outage. But in this case, it's likely that the anchor had deteriorated.

"A small tractor shouldn't be able to break that," Newman said.

The luck of the Irish must have been with the district regarding the timing of the St. Patrick's Day incident.

"We're fortunate we didn't have anybody driving through there at the time, and fortunate the kids weren't around," said Richard Erickson, school district superintendent.

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