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Hundreds left in cold as power goes down

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About 715 homes and businesses south and east of Columbus were without power for between five and six hours during one of the coldest periods of the recent winter storm.

The outage forced at least one local resident to rent a room at a local motel. Jim Willis wrote in an email that there was no electricity to warm his home in the subzero temperatures.

The outage at 7 p.m. Monday was caused by a power line that snapped in the frigid cold about a mile from the Elizabethtown substation on County Road 400S, REMC spokeswoman Marty Lasure said.

The snapped power line affected an unusually large number of homes and businesses that stretched as far east as Hartsville because of its close proximity to the substation, Lasure said.

All power was restored to affected REMC customers by midnight Monday, Lasure said.

The first winter storm-related power outages occurred 17 hours earlier that day. About 250 Duke Energy customers, most in western Bartholomew County and on the north side of Columbus, lost electricity at 2 a.m. Monday as a seven-hour outage began.

About 34 homes and businesses served by REMC, mostly in the Ogilville area, also lost power due to downed limbs and power lines from about 2 to 7 o’clock that same morning, Lasure said.

Following the initial outages, Lasure expressed optimism that further incidents might be avoided after high winds took the weight of frozen rain water and snow off most of the power lines, Lasure said.

But Monday’s night outage was caused by the frigid temperatures that made the power line constrict, Lasure said. While crews located the problem quickly, dangerous weather conditions slowed their progress, she said.

Due to heavy demand, REMC officials had to restore electricity section-by-section from about 11 p.m. until midnight, Lasure said.

The winter storm resulted in an estimated 40,000 outages statewide after temperatures plunged into the negative teens across much of northern and central Indiana, the Associated Press reported.

As of late Wednesday morning, about 4,000 Indianapolis area homes still were without electricity, the news agency reported.

The possibility of power outages in Bartholomew County was frequently discussed by city officials, law enforcement representatives and emergency management personnel during five consecutive days of planning that began Friday, according to Dennis Moats, the Bartholomew County emergency management director.

While the city of Columbus established three warming centers, both Moats and Bartholomew County 911 Emergency Operations Center Director Ed Reuter were hesitant in directing families without power to drive on extremely slick roads to get to those stations. No citizens took advantage of those opportunities, the city reported.

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