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GMP acknowledges cause of Saturday's power outage


By Lisa Loomis

Green Mountain Power, in a letter to Sugarbush, Mad River Glen and the Mad River Valley community, identified the cause of last weekend's ill-timed loss of power and apologized for the incident. 

Mary Powell, senior vice president and chief operating officer for GMP in a February 21 letter, said that the cause of the outage was not immediately apparent to technicians who responded to the MadBush station on Saturday. The power went out on the busiest ski day of the season, stranding skiers on lifts at both mountains. Sugarbush was able to evacuate all skiers within a half hour and Mad River Glen had skiers off the lifts in 15 minutes.

Both resorts issued vouchers to skiers who were inconvenienced by the outage. Ski slopes were packed following last week's huge blizzard as well as packed due to Presidents Day weekend/week. Sugarbush had over 5000 skiers on the slopes at the time and Mad River Glen had between 1500 and 2000 skiers on the slopes. Sugarbush did not re-open for the day, although Mad River Glen continued operating via diesel.

Powell said that although workers were able to get the power going by 3 p.m. (it went out at 1 p.m.), they did not determine the cause until later in the weekend.

"After extensive analysis, including infra-red scans of the substation, we determined that the outage was caused by one of two possible factors--the abundant snow and ice buildup may have caused a cable failure, which tripped the circuit switcher. We also discovered a broken bracket on an electrical cabinet, which may have pinched a cable and tripped the circuit although, again, there is no direct proof. We have repaired that piece of equipment. We will continue our root cause investigation of the MadBush outage to see if we uncover any ways we could have prevented this from occurring," she wrote.

"Could we have reasonably prevented either of these situations? Although we believe that we maintain our equipment to the highest standards and have procedures in place to respond as quickly as possible when outages do occur, we are researching other utilities across the country to see if we can learn from the top performers in the country. Our goal is to be the best in the country, but even top utilities have some level of non-preventable outages. If we discover a maintenance practice that can improve on our record, we will adopt it," she continued.

"We deeply regret the timing of this outage, as we know very well the impacts on everyone in the Mad River Valley area. All of us at Green Mountain Power have as our highest priority providing reliable service to all our customers. We will continue to search for ways to refine and improve our performance to ensure that your power is on. Every day," she concluded.


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