Summer Power Outage Snarls Traffic Leaving LBI

Aug 08, 2018

A power outage stalled unlucky motorists traveling on Long Beach Boulevard Sunday evening, backing up traffic on the main thoroughfare and two parallel arteries after an issue with a disconnect switch, Atlantic City Electric officials said. The outage occurred due to high temperatures and high demand on the energy grid.

The disconnect, or isolator, switch, used in electrical substations to allow isolation of machines such as circuit breakers, transformers, and transmission lines for maintenance, was located in Ship Bottom, Frank Tedesco, public information officer for Atlantic City Electric, said earlier this week. A disconnect switch is used for safety isolation and can be operated automatically or manually.

Tedesco said the initial outage occurred at roughly 5:16 p.m. Aug. 5, and affected about 1,400 customers. Power was restored to all customers two hours later, but the outage had a lingering impact on traffic as the time to get off Long Beach Island surpassed record time. The snarl was so bad that traffic was backed up on Central Avenue until West 28th Street and on Barnegat Avenue to 19th Street.

“In order for crews to safely complete all work associated with the outage, it was necessary to temporarily de-energize the power line,” he said, “affecting service to about 3,900 customers for about 10 minutes.”

That outage lasted from approximately 8:50 to 9 p.m., according to Tedesco.

“No further outages occurred past that time,” he said, noting Atlantic City Electric is still in the process of finalizing enhancement and modernization plans for all of Long Beach Island, including upgrades to the Third Street substation in Ship Bottom as well as other improvements to the local energy grid for the barrier island.

Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck said he didn’t receive any complaints regarding the power outage, “nothing.” He said the traffic volume leaving the Island is already high that time of day on a summer Sunday.

“Atlantic City Electric performs comprehensive preventive maintenance work throughout its service area each year to further enhance overall system reliability and safety for customers and to address potential problems before they occur,” Tedesco said, adding the plans include: inspecting existing infrastructure, installing new, more modern equipment, and trimming trees, which cause about 40 percent of power outages for customers each year. “The company also uses innovative technologies to improve system reliability, such as specialized equipment that can automatically restore service more quickly or isolate damage. This work is essential in helping prevent those outages that can be prevented.”

Atlantic City Electric is owned and operated by Exelon, the same company that owns and operates the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station and has an ownership interest in the Salem Nuclear Power Plant in Salem County. In 2017, Atlantic City Electric spent $312 million to modernize and fortify the local energy grid, including more than $171 million in the local distribution grid, according to Tedesco.

He said the work included inspecting and upgrading equipment such as switches, poles and other devices; installing stronger, tree-resistant aerial cable; and trimming trees. The company, which serves 547,000 customers in Ocean, Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties, updated 39 distribution feeders, replaced or installed 5.3 miles of new underground cable, replaced more than 7 miles of aerial cable, installed 302 reclosers – equipment to auto-restore power after momentary interruptions – installed new transformers at the company’s Mantua and Silver Lake substations, and completed the new High Street substation in Woolwich Township, Tedesco said.

— Gina G. Scala

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