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Crash cuts power on frigid day

Staff writer

A semi that backed into a utility pole Thursday in downtown Burns caused a power failure for the entire town, with most residents out of power nearly five hours on a day with a high in the upper teens.

“What happened is a gentleman had a semi parked up by his house so he could keep it plugged in, and when he tried to back it out, he lost control and hit a pole,” mayor Mike Hammon said.

The accident report says Timothy L. Hiebert, 63, 107 S. Washington St., was driving a 2007 Freightliner owned by JL Unruh, a Newton trucking company.

The pole broke and pulled an electric line loose.

Rhea Huls owns Pizza Rhea’s, near the pole that got hit at the intersection of Main and Church Sts.

Although her business had heat because her gas heaters without electric fans still operated, she lost the entire afternoon’s business.

“It shuts me completely down because everything I run is on electricity,” Huls said.

Her business wasn’t the only one shut down because of the power failure. Other businesses such as Community National Bank and Trust, city hall, and the library were shut down.

The incident on top of eight inches of snow with heavy drifting made for a cold day for Hammon.

“I was out all day long taking care of our city property,” he said. “It was very, very cold, and if it had been out for all night, it would have done major damage.”

A city worker called residents to check on them and let them know the community center was open so they had a place to be warm, he said.

Although no one went to the center, Hammon said he thought they would have done so if the power failure had stretched until after nightfall.

“We had a lot of people driving around in their cars staying warm,” Hammon said.

Evergy communications manager Kaley Bohlen said electricity was disrupted for 209 addresses at 1 p.m. About a quarter of Burns addresses could be isolated and have their power restored in 1½ hours, but not so the rest of the town, Bohlen said.

“We were able to get about 53 restored around 2:30 p.m.,” she said. “The remaining 148 were restored at 6:40 p.m.”

A crew had to replace the broken pole and reconnect lines.

Last modified Feb. 10, 2022

 

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