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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • One year later: Where were you when the lights went out?

  • One year ago today one of the most powerful storms in maybe a generation roared through Hannibal, toppling trees, damaging buildings and knocking out power to much of the city. And while the storm is long gone, it’s far from forgotten.
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  • One year ago today one of the most powerful storms in maybe a generation roared through Hannibal, toppling trees, damaging buildings and knocking out power to much of the city. And while the storm is long gone, it’s far from forgotten.
    “It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since that event occurred. It’s not a time I look back on fondly,” said City Manager Jeff LaGarce.
    Bob Stevenson, general manager of the Board of Public Works, arrived at the BPW’s Service Center just minutes after the storm blew through.
    “The phones were ringing off the hook,” recalls Stevenson, who helped take down the names of those without service. “I soon discovered that was futile. It would have been simpler to list those whose power was still on.”
    Electricity was out throughout much of Hannibal. The resulting darkness was especially memorable for Police Chief Lyndell Davis.
    “There was no ambient light that we have come accustomed to. No light from residences, businesses, or streetlights. No moon or star light, just utter darkness,” said Davis. “Vehicle lights and flashlights, although useful, provided only minimal lighting requiring extra attention be given to normal driving and walking. Countless trees and limbs cluttered the streets and yards which were often intertwined with electrical power lines making our ability to evaluate the damage and check on the welfare of the public a rather tricky endeavor.”
    LaGarce’s post-storm memories are similar.
    “I recall the large-scale destruction; roadways throughout town resembling jungles, and damaged cars and houses,” he said. “The power was off everywhere, and the Board was working frantically to reconnect substations and restore everyone's power. It was a difficult time for everybody.”
    Not only did the storm cut power to residences and businesses, but the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was also darkened, despite the fact it is served by two independent circuits.
    “Plant operators were beginning to panic. We could not pump sewage which meant that basements in the lower part of town would soon start to flood,” said Stevenson. “Linemen went to work on both circuits to restore power. It was a race to see which one could be energized first.”
    Even after electricity was restored at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, its problems weren’t solved.
    “The plant would not restart,” said Stevenson. “After several attempts we finally found an obscure instrument that had failed during the storm. We bypassed that instrument and restarted the plant. By then it was about 3 a.m. the next day.”
    Page 2 of 2 - While electrical service was restored in hours to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, it took longer before all BWP customers could turn their lights back on.
    “What stands out to me is 100 linemen from eight cities investing 10,000 man hours in one week to restore power,” said Stevenson. “Some of our own employees were among the last to be reconnected. I can think of four who worked 16-20 hours a day helping our customers while their families waited patiently for a week for service to be restored.”
    In the wake of the storm the BPW relied to a large extent on social media to provide customers with power-restoration updates.
    “This was the first event where we used Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers out of power,” said Stevenson. “We were able to tell them where we were working every day, why some areas had to wait longer, and the nature of the problems we were trying to solve.”
     
     
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