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High winds, tree-damage likely cause of Dec. 29 Cheney outage


Last updated 1/10/2019 at 4:53pm

Weather is the likely cause of a power outage that left approximately 800 Cheney Light Department customers in the dark on Dec. 29.

In a Jan. 3 email to Public Works Director Todd Ableman, Light Department foreman Travis Billigmeier said feeder No. 2 from the Four Lakes substation went down about 7:30 p.m. The line supplies power to a portion of north Cheney and a department crew inspecting the line in the 2400 block of North 6th Street found a pole-mounted cutout that was open, isolating the No. 2 circuit and interrupting power.

According to electrical industry sources, a cutout is switch/fuse combination used in primary overhead feeder lines to protect distribution transformers from current surges or overloads. The three-part device is composed of a C-shaped frame or cutout body that supports a fuse holder, an insulated tube that contains the third component, a replaceable fuse element. The fuse element, or “fuse link” melts during an over-current event and breaks the circuit.

Billigmeier said the crew inspected the rest of the feeder for other obstructions and re-energized the line around 9 p.m., with most customers in the area back on line around midnight. Several residents posting on the Facebook site Cheney Neighbor to Neighbor commented that they heard the incident was caused by a transformer blowing up, which Billigmeier said is created by the close proximity of the two devices.

“The report of a blown up transformer was the distribution cutout fuse activating, which sounds like a shotgun going off and at night is quite an impressive flash,” he said.

Billigmeier said they suspected the outage was “tree related,” due to the wind and rain experienced in the area that night. According to the Weather Underground website, the weather station at Spokane International Airport experienced sustained winds from the south-southwest at between 25-28 miles per hour between 7 – 7:30 p.m., gusting up to around 40 mph.

John McCallum can be reached at


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