Storms Wreak Havoc On Berlin’s Power System

BERLIN — Severe weather and a number of direct lightning strikes over the last few weeks have caused hours of power outages around Berlin and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the town’s electrical network.

Nonetheless, town officials have nothing but praise for how the power department has handled the situation.

“I think they’ve done a remarkable job,” said Mayor Gee Williams. “They’ve shown extraordinary dedication and confidence.”

The month of July generated more than its usual share of severe weather this year. Though the Eastern Shore has yet to see a hurricane this season, symptoms like heavy rain, powerful winds and frequent lightning strikes have plagued Berlin on more than one occasion over the summer.  Lightening especially has been an issue for the town’s power grid.

“We’ve had a record number of direct strikes on town equipment and property,” said Williams.

Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence confirmed that, during a single storm on July 19, there were 18 direct lightning strikes on the Berlin power system. In addition to that storm, the area was hit by one nearly as severe last Sunday, as well as others earlier in the month.

“We’ve been dealing with a lot of storm trouble,” he said, adding that members of his crew with more than two decades of experience in the area are calling this month’s storms the worst they’ve ever seen in such a short time.

Williams agreed and admitted that he could not remember the town dealing with so many lightning strikes in one month in his entire life.

The strikes led to many in Berlin and the surrounding area losing power, sometimes for hours on end. While some in town were without electricity for four or more hours, Lawrence estimated that the average down time was only an hour or less on Sunday.

He explained that outage length was conditional on what had caused the loss of power. Fallen tree limbs and lightning strikes could be dealt with quickly once located, though Lawrence remarked that his crews couldn’t work while lightning was active due to the safety hazard of a strike hitting and then traveling through a line.

Williams praised Lawrence and his department for rapidly responding to any trouble within the town and for restoring power as soon as they possibly could.

“I think we have a great crew there,” he said, adding that he was more than satisfied with response times and efforts.

Besides outages, strikes have damaged or destroyed everything from transformers to computers in the electric department.

“There has been a lot of damage caused by these storms,” said Lawrence, who guessed that more than $70,000 worth of damage had been done by severe weather in July.

Four transformers were destroyed, while damage was also noticed in a power substation, as well as the rear of the main power plant.

Police Chief Arnold Downing added that the police servers were down for a short time at the beginning of the week and a fax machine lost. Despite all of the damage, however, no major hiccups occurred and all necessary equipment has either already been replaced or will be shortly.

Williams explained that the town kept duplicates of some essential equipment in storage. For anything not on hand, the policy is to order it automatically.

“You just have to get it fixed and then you take care of the paperwork later,” said Williams.