What caused the downtown South Bend power outage? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

What caused the downtown South Bend power outage?

Indiana Michigan Power announced the root cause of the May downtown South Bend power outage Indiana Michigan Power announced the root cause of the May downtown South Bend power outage

Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) President Paul Chodak met with members of the media in South Bend today. After more than a month of investigation, I&M finally knows what sparked the manhole fire in May. The one that spawned the three-day long power outage in downtown South Bend.

"You know we're never gonna get to a system that will never fail," said Paul Chodak, I&M president and CEO.

Chodak says a lead power cable failed, and got so hot that it melted a rubber-insulated cable next to it. When the rubber melted, it emitted a gas that ignited into flames from the heat. I&M says it's working to replace all lead power cables with newer, rubber ones.

"Things happen," said Chodak. "But what we can do is balance the reliability of the system, which is very important, and the cost. which is also important."

The manhole that caught fire had three primary feeds to the city's power. According to I&M, about 10 percent of the city's manholes have at least three primary feeds. That's a problem. The city needs three out of five primary feed cables in order to run.

The plan is to redesign those 10 percent of manholes so that no one manhole has more than two primary feeds. That way, if that hole is compromised, the entire city won't be left in the dark.

Downtown South Bend says the power outage was figuratively, and literally, one of the darkest weekends for local businesses. The business group estimates a negative economic impact of $3 million.

"From a business perspective," said Downtown South Bend Executive Director Aaron Perri. "No cost is too small or too large to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

I&M plans is consulting with an outside firm to help determine whether rebuilding the 10 percent of manholes with three primary feeds to two or less feeds each is even possible. The power company hasn't released a timeline or cost estimate for the planned changes.

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