Power outage frazzles businesses | AspenTimes.com

Power outage frazzles businesses

Janet Urquhart

Workers dig to access buried electric lines Thursday. A surge underground blew a transformer, leaving a chunk of downtown Aspen without power starting Wednesday evening. (Erin M. Cady)

A handful of downtown businesses and one hotel remained dark for much of Thursday after a blown transformer knocked out the electricity on Wednesday evening.”I’m pissed!” said Takah Sushi owner Casey Coffman. So were some guests at The Prospector, said manager Scott Kirkwood, negotiating the hallways with a flashlight.Other retailers simply hung signs in the windows of locked front doors to inform customers they’d reopen when the power came back on. The perfect fall day was a good one for a forced closure.”It’s OK. After cranking all summer nonstop, we’ll take it,” said Dana Scott, who owns Rare Optiks with her husband, Randy.

The outage affected a swath of the business core Wednesday evening when the transformer in the alley behind The Red Onion blew. By Thursday afternoon, the blackout was limited to a short stretch of one side of both Hyman and Cooper avenues, and the block of Mill Street between them.The city’s electric utility hoped to have the system back on line by late Thursday afternoon, until a repair crew peered into an excavated hole in the alley, where charred and mangled cables had been exposed. The problem was far worse than anticipated, but one utility worker expressed hope that power could be restored before today.Takah Sushi, on the corner of Mill and Cooper, was shut down Wednesday night and unsure when it could reopen.”Most of the product we’re assuming we’ve lost,” manager Ron Lambert said.Coffman estimated that her restaurant has lost more than $10,000 worth of business and food as a result of periodic power outages since midsummer. Insurance won’t cover the losses, she said.Some outages are the result of failures in Holy Cross Energy equipment rather than city utility problems.

“It’s staggering. The amount of time that it has been out is outrageous. The frequency is outrageous,” said Coffman, who placed calls to the mayor and the city manager’s office Thursday to complain.”I just think it’s something the city needs to address. They want my sales tax revenue – I can’t give them my sales tax revenue if I’m not open,” she said. “It’s tough enough to get through the offseason.”Ben and Jerry’s, dependent on electricity to keep its ice cream frozen, was also without power Thursday. New York Pizza was closed, as well.At The Prospector, the plumbing was still working, and units are equipped with fireplaces.”Heat hasn’t been an issue yet,” Kirkwood said. The timeshare hotel was about half full.Aspen Sports manager Ron Morehead wasn’t getting much done at the store.

“I’ve had better days,” he said. “It’s just more of an inconvenience. I don’t have any computers. I don’t have any registers. We have to find things by flashlight.”A crew with the city electric utility worked through Wednesday night to replace the transformer, according to Phil Overeynder, director of Aspen’s utilities. A crew began cutting through the pavement in the alley between Hyman and Cooper on Thursday afternoon to repair buried electric lines after spending the morning pinpointing the location of the problem.Usually, power can be routed through one line while another is repaired. In this case, both available lines were out of commission, Overeynder said.Some crew members working on the repairs Thursday had been up all night.”We’ll be here until it’s fixed,” one said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com