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Power outage affects thousands in Mitchell

A Monday morning power outage left more than 5,500 NorthWestern Energy customers in Mitchell and nearby towns without electricity.

The length of the outage ranged depending on location, lasting up to more than an hour in one area of Mitchell and less in other areas.

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Residents in the northeast, southeast and southwest quadrants of the city of Mitchell, along with the communities of Dimock and Ethan, lost power at 8:22 a.m., according to NorthWestern Energy spokesman Tom Glanzer.

Customers in the Dimock and Ethan areas got their power back within eight minutes, while the northeast and southeast parts of Mitchell were without power for 20 minutes. The southwest portion of the city was dark a little longer, until 9:15 a.m., and the south edge of the city got power back around 9:40 a.m.

In total, 5,519 customers were affected, according to Glanzer, who said the cause of the outage was related to a failing voltage transformer, which measures electrical current going through the system.

L.B. Williams Elementary, Mitchell Technical Institute and Dakota Wesleyan University all reported some outages.

Also included in the power outage were traffic lights in parts of Mitchell. Mitchell Public Safety Traffic Division Supervisor Dick Figland said the city put up temporary stop signs along some of the major streets, including Havens Avenue at South Ohlman Street and Minnesota Street; South Burr Street at East Kay Avenue and East Norway Avenue, and at the off-ramps from Interstate 90 exit 332.

"We had one just about everywhere," Figland joked.

Figland said the remaining stop light signals have battery backup systems, keeping them on even if the power is off.

The outage continues a string of outages for NorthWestern Energy customers in and around Mitchell in recent months. An early December power outage left local customers without service for three hours when a piece of equipment at a substation failed. Ethan and Delmont lost power Jan. 16, when rough weather knocked customers offline for two hours.

Glanzer said there's no rhyme or reason to any of the power outages, other than electricity being "a big machine" that works almost all of the time. He said that even though the temperature was well below zero Monday morning, that had nothing to do with the electricity going out.

"Obviously, there's never really a good time for the power to go out and we know that a Monday morning in February is a pretty rough one," Glanzer said. "We really do appreciate our customers being patient."