Campustown businesses navigate power outage

Daily Illini

Daily Illini

By Marcia Harris

Employees of AmerenIP want to make sure residents know what to do in the event of a power outage.

University students who chose to stay on campus for the summer found themselves in the dark last week – literally. On June 7, a semitruck knocked over power lines on Fifth Street near Campustown, taking with it the power for many residents for more than two hours. Now, store owners and residents alike are working to ensure unplanned power outages won’t significantly affect business. Thursday’s outage resulted from a damaged circut breaker. Both outages left Campustown businesses scrambling for a solution to the problem.

“That’s Rentertainment” employee John Ozaksut recalls walking to work Tuesday night and seeing downed power lines. The video store managed the situation to the best of their ability.

“It was rough. We handed out flashlights to customers and called the power company about every 15 minutes to see when the power would be back on. But by 9:00 (p.m.) we realized it wouldn’t be on anytime soon and decided to close early,” he said.

According to AmerenIP spokeswoman Shirley Swarthout, the unfortunate outage was not the power company’s fault.

“A truck snagged a low-hanging wire on Fifth Street near Campustown and, as the truck kept going, it pulled down four utility poles,” she said.

This is not the first time a semi has snagged power lines in the Champaign-Urbana area. In 2003, a similar incident occurred in Urbana leaving Lincoln Square Mall and nearby areas without power.

However, last Thursday the power went out for a second time – this time north of Green Street. Swarthout said the outage was caused by damage to a bracket that supports the electric circuit. Businesses and residents were without power for three hours in the early evening. Marcus Troutman, assistant manager at E.B. Games said they kept the store open despite the power outage.

“We had to do all the transactions manually, including receipts. Since the computer wasn’t working, we had to call the store at the mall to get trade in values.”

“Despite the hardship, we still worked hard to keep the store open.”

With the lack of electricity in 90-degree weather, students living off-campus were really feeling the heat. Adam Bear said his White Street apartment was without power when he returned home around 5:30 p.m. Thursday night. Yet, Bear wasn’t too worried about power outages interrupting his daily routine.

“Well I come from a small town so I’m kind of used to the power going out every now and then. It’s not something I expect around here really often though.”

Fortunately, AmerenIP was able to get the power outage under control before Summer Session II began Monday. With thousands of University students remaining for summer school, many residents are hoping they won’t find themselves in the dark again.