Strong winds snap power pole, causing electric outage

Lisa Hollingsworth was getting her new office in Paris City Hall ready on Sunday, April 30 for her first full day as the city’s new superintendent the next day when at about 4:30 p.m. the electricity went out during a storm.

In short order, it was clear the city had a major issue, and even before her first weekday on the job, Hollingsworth had a baptism by fire – actually, by wind and rain. She quickly activated the city’s emergency calling tree and city workers sprang into action.

Strong winds destroyed an aluminum structure on Roy Mitchell’s property, which blew into a power pole, and combined with powerful winds snapped the pole as if it were a thin piece of wood. The pole in question carried electricity into the Paris utility substation, causing an outage in Paris and surrounding areas.

Mitchell was working in his shed when he saw swirling winds coming his way. He quickly shut doors and within seconds, the aluminum structure was a twisted mess and the power pole was snapped.

“It happened quickly,” Mitchell said as he surveyed the damage. Then pointing to the distance, he added, “at least the deer stand is not damaged.”

There was no evidence of a tornado in Monroe County last week, despite reports to the contrary, according to the National Weather Service. Jim Siezeking of the National Weather Service in St. Louis classified the wind that helped down the power pole in Paris as a microburst. He estimated that the winds were more than 70 mph.

A microburst is a small downdraft in a storm that moves the opposite of a tornado. The wind generated in a microburst can be intense, often enough to knock down mature trees, or in the case of Paris last week, help snap a power pole in half. A microburst can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

Hollingsworth praised the quick action of the city utility worker Quentin Ashenfelter and others.

“Quentin was very calm under pressure. He did a great job,” she said.

The outage lasted for about six-and-half hours. The city called in crews from Central Electric, who had to travel from Jefferson City, to replace the power pole.

Hollingsworth, meanwhile, drove to stores in Paris with large walking coolers, such as Hickman’s IGA, to inform them of what happened to the power.

“Of course, in this age of social media, most were aware,” she said.

Shortly after 11 p.m., power was restored and operations were back to normal.

“We have such terrific men working to the city. They know their departments and they know what they need to do,” she said. “They go well above and beyond for our residents, especially in a crisis.”