Power outage blamed on wind; At least 3,500 lose electricity after tree falls on subtransmission line in southeast Quincy

Some Kelly's patrons used their cellphones to finish their drinks after the power went off in the restaurant Sunday night. (H-W Photo/Maggie Menderski)
Posted: Feb. 10, 2013 10:26 pm Updated: Mar. 4, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

More than 3,500 homes and businesses were without power for about 90 minutes Sunday night after a portion of a tree fell on an 34,500-volt Ameren Illinois subtransmission line near Evangeline Drive, likely the result of winds that were gusting to 25 mph at the time.

Power went out at about 8 p.m. in an area that stretched from 20th to 30th streets along Broadway, southwest to 11th and Jackson and southeast to 24th and Harrison. Power was restored shortly before 9:30 p.m. for most customers, although there were some areas that went without power until about 10 p.m.

"You can have a situation where the power could be off on one side of the street and on the other side it could be on because they're on different circuits," Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris said.

Morris said 3,506 customers lost power at the height of the outage. He said Ameren rerouted electricity to a different substation to get the power restored, then repaired the damaged line.

Traffic lights were not operational in the affected areas, meaning Quincy police dispatched additional officers to busy intersections to help with any problems with traffic control. Officers also provided security for business along Broadway.

As Ameren Illinois crews worked to restore power, the staff at Kelly's Tavern at 2902 Broadway continued serving drinks and food in low light to a small crowd of customers.

Bartender Hillari Miles had a full bar while the wait staffed manned six tables. Some of those looking for food left Kelly's and went to its sister restaurant, The Abbey at 18th and Spring, which still had power. However, many customers opted to finish their food and ordered drinks under the dim glow of cellphones.

Customers perched smartphones over glasses to capture the light.

Kristy Morriss, who has served at Kelly's for six years, served tealight candles with her appetizers to add an element of visibility.

"I told them there's nothing more romantic than a candlelight dinner," she said.

The outage kept the staff from serving soda from the fountain, but it didn't last long enough to spoil the restaurant's refrigerated beverages.

One customer retrieved desserts from the salad bar and served them to his wife, although she admitted she wasn't sure what she was eating. Employees were clearing tables by flashlight.

Without power, the wait staff could not process credit cards or cash out tips. Debby Rhinberger, Kelly's manager, unearthed a credit card reader that she said probably hadn't been used since the 1970s. This machine took the cards' numbers, and the staff will process them today.

A cheer went up when the lights came back on at 9:23 p.m. Rhinberger said her staff would probably return Monday morning to finish its normal Sunday night cleaning.