Things are on the blink in Union Bridge Brief power outages keep residents busy resetting digital clocks

December 30, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

If it sometimes seems that life in Union Bridge is on the blink, it is.

Five-hundred customers of Allegheny Power Co. in Union Bridge and the surrounding countryside have spent nearly a year dealing with brief power outages that occur as often as several times a day. The outages last no more than a minute or two, just long enough to set digital clocks all over town blinking, residents say.

"I'm getting so tired of resetting all my little digital clocks," said Earl Fritz, who has five clocks in his house, two miles outside Union Bridge.

Fritz, treasurer of Union Bridge Volunteer Fire Company, said the outages haven't set off automatic alarms or created emergency service problems for the fire company. Station clocks lose a minute or two and the microwave clock has to be reset, he said.

Allegheny Power officials don't know what causes the outages.

Midge Teahan, a utility spokeswoman, said Allegheny Power has ruled out the possibility that squirrels are causing the problem by getting into telephone poles, where the line meets the cross arm.

"Typically, squirrels would be electrocuted. We'd be having dead squirrels," she said.

An Allegheny Power forester blames trees, which can trip the lines momentarily when limbs cross them, Teahan said.

The utility's failure to stop the outages frustrates Councilwoman Bonnie Hyde, the council liaison to the power company.

She said she has gotten numerous complaints about the problem.

"I call [Allegheny Power] and tell them it's happening. They say call every time it happens. They tell me they're working on it and that seems to be the end of it," she said.

Hyde said she has seen helicopters she assumed were checking utility lines, but she can't understand why the problem has dragged on for so long.

"I just really think they can find this. I don't think they're trying hard enough," she said.

Teahan said Allegheny Power trimmed trees along lines that serve Union Bridge last month, but hasn't finished the work.

She said the line crosses areas of "dense vegetation."

How do electronically challenged people, whose microwave clocks sometimes blink "88: 88" for days after a power outage, cope?

"When you're in Union Bridge, you learn how to reset it," Councilman Selby M. Black said.

He recalled several Saturdays last summer when the power at his South Main Street home went out three or four times, a few minutes each time.

The outages seem unrelated to weather, he said.

Utility workers haven't seen any pattern in the Union Bridge power interruptions, Teahan said. But Allegheny Power has no way of knowing what time an outage occurred. A computerized system restores power, but doesn't record information regarding brief outages, she said.

Lehigh Portland Cement Co., Union Bridge's largest employer, is unaffected because it has a direct power line.

Mayor Perry L. Jones said the outages don't affect the town's water or sewer service equipment.

"Everybody who has those digital clocks has to reset them, but other than that, it's not much of a problem," he said.

Pub Date: 12/30/96

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