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Bird knocks out power to much of city
Service restored within an hour
clocktower
With a power outage disabling the traffic lights, traffic was backed up in downtown Cumming on Thursday. - photo by Jared Putnam

 

A bird of prey caused a massive power outage Thursday afternoon in Cumming, shutting down businesses and snarling traffic at rush hour.

Blake House, spokesman for Sawnee EMC, said a large raptor triggered a protection device at the utility's Cumming substation. The bird did not survive.

"One of the protection devices took the station down and protected the station," House said. "We got there and recognized the problem and got everybody back on."

The power went out about 4:50 p.m. House said about 5,000 Sawnee customers were without service for about 48 minutes.

Though some motorists grumbled authorities did not respond immediately, Cumming police officers directed traffic along what became heavily congested downtown streets until the traffic lights resumed working.

Cumming Police Chief Scott Burgess explained that with a limited number of officers on duty, the department handled the major intersections and tried to clear them as best they could.

He said that the outage occurred while officers were working other calls. As soon as they could, they responded to the intersections.

Burgess said the department never lost power, thanks to a backup system that kicked in.

"We were always in communication with the public and with our officers by radio," Burgess said.

"I was glad that our system did what it was supposed to do and operated flawlessly to keep us with telephones, radios and  power here at the department so we could continue to serve the city."

Lynn Wallace, spokeswoman for Georgia Power, said about 2,700 of its customers were also affected by the outage.

For those people, power was restored by 6:15 p.m., she said.

The clock on top of City Hall stopped Thursday, marking the time the outage occurred.

City Adminstrator Gerald Blackburn said traffic was the biggest issue.

"There just was a real traffic snarl here in town," he said. "There weren't any problems as far as water or anything ... thank goodness it didn't last long."

Blackburn said city offices close at 5 p.m., so the outage wasn't much of an interruption in operations at City Hall.

Preston Lemons, branch manager for the Wells Fargo bank on West Maple Street, said the business closed for the day when the power went out.

"With it being at 10 until five, it wasn't too bad," he said.

The Forsyth County Detention Center on Veterans Memorial Boulevard near downtown has an emergency generator that is used in such situations, said Sheriff Ted Paxton.

Paxton added that as far as he knew, there hadn't been any complications at the facility.

The outage didn't cause any problems at the Forsyth County Courthouse either, said Clerk of Court Greg Allen.

Unrelated to the power outage, but no less aggravating for the evening commute, the traffic lights at Hwy. 369 and Ga. 400 malfunctioned three times Thursday.

Traffic was backed up for miles on Ga. 400. Motorists were asked to use caution as they passed through the crossing.

Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said signal technicians reset the internal computer twice. After the third instance, they replaced some internal computer equipment.

"It has worked well since that work was completed at about 5 p.m. [Thursday]," Pope said.