After an outage lasting about 16 hours, electricity began to be restored in Hillsboro and other parts of Highland County around 10 p.m. Saturday.
Earlier in the evening, AEP issued auto calls to customers reporting that significant progress had been made in fixing a damaged substation on Dunlap Road. The call stated that power should be restored to everyone beginning around 9 p.m. and no later than midnight.
Fortunately, the outage occurred on a day that was mild weather-wise. Neither oppressive heat nor extreme cold caused a problem on a day where temperatures reached only into the mid-70s with low humidity.
Most businesses in Hillsboro closed Saturday, although a few with their own generators kept operating, and others stayed open despite the lack of electricity.
A long line formed throughout the day at Holtfield Station, cars lining up outside for gasoline, customers crowding inside for food, as Holtfield continued operating with its own generator.
Twenty-Four Exchange and Deli was doing brisk business, also operating with its own generator, although the clothing side of the store was closed. Lowe’s was open, as were a handful of other businesses across town.
But the lack of electricity didn’t deter some businesses. At Larry’s Party Shop on Muntz Street, owner Shane Wilkin opened early Saturday and operated using a calculator until he arranged for a generator to arrive later in the afternoon.
Some events were canceled, including a free open air music festival sponsored by the city that was scheduled to take place on Gov. Trimble Place in Hillsboro.
By 10:30 p.m., the AEP outage map showed the number of customers without power reduced from nearly 6,000 to just more than 2,000.
“The substation burned up on Dunlap Road,” said Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera. He said the cause of the fire was unknown. The fire broke out around 6 or 6:30 a.m. and “took out about nine transformers,” said Barrera.
“They’re bringing in crews to rebuild or whatever they have to do,” said the sheriff.
AEP workers on site Saturday afternoon predicted that most residents were likely facing a 24-hour outage. They said transformers that could be salvaged were being repaired, and other transformers would be brought in from elsewhere, possibly from as far away as Canton. Fortunately, the outage did not last that long.
Jim Lyle, director of Highland County Emergency Management Agency, cautioned residents to be aware of refrigeration units that were without power for several hours. He said people should consider placing food in ice or discarding it.
Bradley George, chief of the Paint Creek EMS/Fire District, said Paint Creek responded to the substation fire, but the fire had flashed quickly and was out on arrival. He said the cause of the fire was unknown.
George said the outage did not affect Paint Creek’s ability to respond to emergency calls, and portable generators were in place.
Lyle said emergency calls should go to 911 as usual, but questions or concerns could be addressed by calling the local EMA at 937-393-5880.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.