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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Midday ‘Dip in Voltage’ Darkens Parts of D.C.

WASHINGTON (CN) - Thousands of Washington, D.C. area residences, businesses and government buildings went dark Tuesday following an equipment failure at a southern Maryland electricity substation.

At approximately 12:45 p.m., a 230-kilovolt transmission conductor located at the facility of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative was damaged when it fell to the ground from its support, SMECO said in a release posted to its website. All SMECO customers had power restored by 2 p.m.

"No SMECO equipment was damaged and all protective devices operated correctly to isolate SMECO equipment from the Pepco fault," the release said.

Charles County fire personnel arrived at the facility and extinguished a small fire.

The outages were widespread yet intermittent. In many areas throughout the D.C. metropolitan area, a few city blocks were dark while the other side of the street had full power service. Some cell phone communication services were also affected by what Pepco called a "dip in voltage."

"There was never a loss of permanent supply of electricity to customers," Pepco said in a release on its website. "The dip in voltage caused equipment at some customer facilities to transfer to their backup systems."

Among the notable buildings affected by the voltage dip were D.C. Superior Courthouse, Prince George's Circuit Court, the University of Maryland at College Park and the White House, where Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he was meeting with President Obama during the incident.

Earnest, during his regularly scheduled daily press briefing, said the president's offices were not affected and back-up generators immediately supplied power to the rest of the executive mansion.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported that as many as 13 of its Metrorail stations ran on back-up generators and the incident resulted in several escalator and elevator outages. Rail service, however, ran uninterrupted.

Two MARC commuter train lines - Brunswick and Camden - were affected by a communication gap with CSX. The trains ran as scheduled but the voltage dip prevented train operators from communicating with dispatchers. As many businesses and federal agencies allowed employees to leave early, the communication likely affected the dispatch of extra trains to accommodate the earlier than usual rush hour passengers.

No delays or cancellations were reported at either of the two major airports service the nation's capital.

Nearly 1,600 Pepco customers in D.C. were reportedly still without power at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The estimated restoration of service is 10 p.m.

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