WAKE FOREST — A circuit overload was the cause of the power outage Friday afternoon that knocked out the lights, computers and cash registers to more than 1,500 homes and businesses.
All Wake Forest Power customers north of Dr. Calvin Jones Highway were affected, including Gateway Commons, portions of downtown, Remington Woods, Old Mill Stream, Stadium Road, McDowell Drive, Staffordshire, Jenkins Road, Deacons Ridge and Heath Ridge Village.
The outage lasted about an hour, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“We had switched out the John B. Cole substation this morning. We had all of the town being served on the [N.C.] 98 highway substation. A breaker tripped, we believe because of overload,” Public Works Director Mike Barton said after power was restored Friday. “We went in and divvied up the load across the three circuits.”
Substations help transform the raw high-voltage feed from Duke Energy-Progress to a current useable inside town limts. The Cole substation is undergoing upgrades to allow for further growth of the town’s power grid, to serve new customers, and has to be offline while the work is being performed, Barton said.
A new transformer is to be added, and a new circuit between South Main Street and the Holding Village development now under construction.
While operating off one substation, crews have to constantly monitor the load, because some areas of town use more power than others. The biggest culprit in summer is air conditioning, which draws a lot of energy to function.
As a result of the electric service interruption, the outage impacted traffic signals at several major intersections around town, including the Calvin Jones Highway at Jones Dairy Road and South White Street at Roosevelt Avenue, resulting in significant traffic delays.
According to a press release, the town of Wake Forest’s telephone system was inundated with phone calls from affected residents attempting to report the power outage. Town officials say the phone system is equipped to accommodate a fixed number of incoming calls at the same time.
Though town staff answered the calls in the order they were received, the unusually high volume created a bottleneck in the system making it difficult for many callers to get through.
Wake Forest has been a public power community since 1909. Today it serves more than 5,400 residential customers and 800 commercial customers.
Wake Electric, a co-op based in Youngsville and Wake Forest, also serves portions of the town, including parts of Heritage, based on longstanding territory agreements between power agencies.