Power outages leave Blacksburg in the dark

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The lights are slowly coming back on for thousands left in the dark in Blacksburg overnight.

Some Appalachian Power crews are working 12 plus hour shifts in the bitter cold to get the lights back on.

There were two big issues, first a bad breaker cut power at the North Blacksburg substation, then a faulty underground cable at another substation shut off power too. Both problems combined turned off electricity to more than three thousand customers last night.

With temperatures in the 20's and teens, homes turned into ice boxes.

"It's been very cold," said Joseph Spence. To say this power outage was a nuisance would be an understatement for him.

"I had an online exam. I was about to start doing it at home when the lights went out," Spence said.

They turned off around five Thursday evening at his apartment. Last night was more than cold.

"We ended up using a total of seven blankets we had laying around. So that and the dog. So that kept us warm," Spence said.

Some crews started working immediately afterwards in the frigid weather digging holes and ordering new parts.

After they found the problem, they now have an idea as to what caused it.

"The load I assume took it our because usually those cables don't go bad on their own," said Carl Bishop, a line crew supervisor with Appalachian Power.

Working in subfreezing temperatures poses a new problem - staying warm long enough to do the work.

"There is only so much stuff you can put on glove wise, shoe wise, and face wise," Bishop said. "It's a little challenging working in the cold."

For some customers the outage was a cue to leave for the semester.

"I was going to head out of town on Saturday but since it's cold and I have no idea when the power is going to come back on I decided I'd leave today," said Scott Shumway, a Virginia Tech senior who lives at an apartment complex in Blacksburg.

The town's Community Center opened as a warming shelter Friday night. The Aquatic center did the same. Both are offering hot showers and a warm place to stay through Saturday.