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Power outages plague Brooksville

A morning shortage left many officials in the county government center without phones.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 21, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- A power outage disrupted the morning routine of 1,400 customers of Florida Power in the Brooksville area on Wednesday morning, forcing businesses to halt some of their services and creating phone problems for Hernando County government.

And further outages occurred throughout Hernando on Wednesday evening because of lightning strikes, which hit transformers, trees and homes. No one was injured.

The major morning outage lasted about 75 minutes, from 9:17 a.m. to 10:32 a.m., and was caused by a vine growing on a major power feeder, said Florida Power spokesman Mac Harris. The moisture in the vine conducted electricity between two lines and resulted in a short, he said. The affected area included downtown Brooksville, areas east of Brooksville on U.S. 98 and near the Brooksville quarry.

Workers, looking for a typical blown fuse, initially had difficulty locating the cause of the outage but eventually identified the offending fauna and cut it down, Harris said.

Bill Bell, owner of the Main Street Eatery, said the outage kept him from using his oven to cook apple cobbler for about an hour, but he added that the inconvenience was minor.

Parrott Middle School also experienced the outage and called on the nearby Brooksville Elementary School to help heat up pizzas for lunch. But in the end, electricity was restored in time for Parrott's cafeteria to prepare the mid-day meal. In the meantime, teachers taught by light that streamed into classroom windows, said assistant principal Marcia Austin.

SunTrust Bank in downtown Brooksville also was affected, although bank officials did not return phone calls for comment.

The Hernando County Government Center suffered the most lasting damage. A generator kept some government offices running, but areas of the old courthouse lost power. And long after lights were back on, technical officials struggled to restore many of the phones used in the building. As of 5 p.m., office phones for judges, the public defender, the state attorney and the tax collector still were not working, said Garry Allen, county technical services director. Allen said officials were unsure of the problem but already had ordered new parts they suspected were shorted out. He said he hoped to have the lines restored by this morning.

"We're going to work through the night," he said. Later Wednesday evening, storms created sporadic power outages and lightning. Two homes in Spring Hill and another in northwest Hernando County were hit, but no fires or injuries resulted, Spring Hill Fire and Rescue officials said.

A tree hit by lightning in Brooksville knocked down an electric pole, cutting more power and tying up traffic on Darby Lane. A transformer hit at Sunshine Grove Road and Cortez Boulevard meant no electricity for some residents.

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