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Another power outage hits Mitchell; Daily Republic's printing affected

Work continues by flashlight Tuesday night in The Daily Republic's press facility during a power outage. (Korrie Wenzel/The Daily Republic)

NorthWestern Energy officials were not sure what caused a second power outage in as many days Tuesday in Mitchell.

Tom Glanzer, spokesman for NorthWestern, said the outage, which hit around 10:45 p.m. Tuesday and lasted until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, was caused by a switch opening in a transmission substation. He said the outage affected about 4,800 customers, less than the company's initial estimate of 6,000 to 7,000.

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Glanzer said about 1,200 customers had power restored within an hour and 15 minutes, but some had to wait up to an hour and 45 minutes.

He said it was a different substation than the one that caused Monday night's power outage in Mitchell, which affected about 1,300 customers.

Whether or not Tuesday night's outage was weather-related was not clear. The Mitchell area was under a winter storm warning.

"It's a little confusing on this one," Glanzer said. "It's a big piece of machinery and every once in a while something malfunctions. Tonight was one of those nights."

The Daily Republic was among the affected customers Tuesday night. The newspaper's A section had printed when the power went out, but printing of the B section was still in progress. Power at the newspaper office came back on around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, but it was too late to get the B section out in time. The section, which is fronted by Sports and also includes other content, will not be in Wednesday's newspapers but will be inserted in Thursday's papers. It is possible some subscribers' papers will be delivered later than usual Wednesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Glanzer blamed the Monday power outage that left southwestern Mitchell in the dark for nearly three hours on faulty equipment at a local substation.

The power went out at approximately 5 p.m. Monday and affected a total of about 1,300 commercial and residential customers, according to Glanzer. By 6 p.m. Monday, technicians had traced the problem to a local substation and began working to replace the malfunctioning equipment. Power was restored to the area by about 7:45 p.m. Monday.

For safety reasons, the power was kept off while the repairs were performed, which may have extended the length of the power outage, Glanzer said.

“When you’re working in the dark, you take extra, precautionary steps,” he said.

Businesses in the area were affected by the outage, including County Fair Food Store, located at 1305 W. Havens St. According to store manager Justin Luther, County Fair was forced to close during the power outage, which happened to occur during what is typically the grocery store’s busiest time of day.

“It did a number on us, as far as sales,” Luther said, referring to the outage.

County Fair’s cash registers have backup battery power that lasted for a time and allowed some customers to check out before leaving the store, Luther said.

No frozen products spoiled during the outage, Luther said, because most are behind sealed doors, and those that weren’t were quickly covered to keep them from thawing.

“It wasn’t any fun,” he said, “but it happens.”