December 09, 2021

Power restored in Newton after Tuesday morning outage

Nearly 3,000 customers affected

A switch gear on a transformer box at the Alliant Energy substation near Agnes Patterson Memorial Park in Newton caught fire and burned Tuesday morning leaving thousands of customers without power.

Alliant Energy spokesperson Justin Foss said crews were able to restore power to some customers by 10 a.m. and others by 10:30 a.m., leaving customers in the dark for approximately two hours.

“We were able to reroute power to get customers on faster while we do repairs. Crews are finishing up just making the system good again. But everyone is back on,” Foss said.

Crews are still investigating the cause of the malfunction. Foss said it could have been due to various reasons. Oftentimes a break can be caused by an animal getting into the transformer area or it could have been a delayed reaction to a lightning strike.

“(We) appreciate customers’ patience as we fixed things,” Foss said.

The outages affected several local businesses and left three schools without power. According to the Newton Community School District, the outage affected Aurora Heights Elementary, Berg Middle School and Newton High School.

The outage happened around 8:20 a.m. and affected the phones and internet services at all campuses.

The district reverted to their two-way radio system for communication between the district buildings and departments, according to superintendent Bob Callaghan.

Callaghan said the district received word at 9:30 a.m. the power could be affected for an additional two hours. With the loss of power, food service staff was unable to prepare meals for students throughout the district. It was decided to release all students at 10 a.m. With the internet and phone systems down, the district had to rely on Facebook and local media to communicate with parents about dismissal. Teachers and staff also attempted to contact parents using cell phones.

“At utmost importance is keeping our kids safe. Our staff did an outstanding job of making sure students were accounted for, safe and communicated in any way they could. It is not often a district finds itself without the ability to communicate via Infinite Campus, but the power outage affected our servers for district-wide communication,” Callaghan said.

The outage did not affect classes at Newton Christian School.

Foss said the incident did cause a dip in energy for more customers than those affected by the outage. Alliant saw that dip affect customers all the way to the edge of Grinnell.

“So if customers weren’t affected by the outage but did see a drop in energy momentarily, that was all connected to this,” he said.

Alliant crews worked to get customer’s power back on as quickly as possible. Foss attributes their ability to reroute power to the upgrades that have been made to the system in the past years.

“By having a stronger energy grid in town we are able to go around issues while we make repairs to them,” Foss said. “This is an example of us being able to send the power in different directions to get customers back on and if we haven’t made upgrades to parts of the system you can’t really send power that way.”

No more outages are expected as crews finish working on the switch gear that was damaged. If an outage does occur, customers should contact Alliant Energy.

Contact Pam Pratt at 641-792-3121 ext. 6530 or pampratt@newtondailynews.com