Power outage affects Gillette, causes vehicle accident

The Black Hills Energy office in Gillette. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

The Monday afternoon commute was greatly impacted when a power outage created a problem in downtown Gillette and outlying areas.

Traffic signals were out for several miles which resulted in at least one vehicle accident.

In addition to the dangerous conditions on local roads during the busiest hours of the day, thousands of residents and dozens of businesses were without power.  Some amenities were disrupted such as the Splashpad at Energy Park were forced to close for the day.

“I got the first word right about 4:45 p.m. that we had a substantial power outage,” said Geno Palazzari, city communication’s manager. “It affected a lot of people for a few hours, but the total number I don’t have. I would leave that to Black Hills energy to answer.”

Most, if not all, power was restored by 8 p.m.

Palazzari said the outage was due to a supply issue at the Wyodak power plant. He said the outage created problems traveling around town but that it didn’t affect City buildings because those are protected with backup generators. Aside from the Splashpad, he wasn’t aware of any other public entities that were forced to close for the day.

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Michael Howe, community affairs manager for Black Hills Energy, explained the reason for the power outage to County 17 today.

“We were conducting some routine work at one of our substations that services Gillette,” he explained. “When we do that, we operate on generators while the work is done, which in this case was for preventative maintenance. Unfortunately, the generator we switched to in order to do the work safely failed, and that in turn led to a short interruption in the power. Preventative maintenance is something that we do all the time and usually, you don’t even notice the change in supply or interruption.”

The lone vehicle accident reported around the time of the power outage occurred at about 5 p.m.

A 22-year-old female was driving eastbound on Moonshiner Lane and was approaching the intersection with Skyline Drive when the traffic signal went out, according to Gillette Police Lt. Brent Wasson.

She continued through the intersection, Wasson continued, and collided with a blue Chevrolet truck driven by a 70-year-old male. Both drivers sustained minor injuries. The damage was estimated at over $1,000 and there were no citations issued.