A malfunctioning transformer interrupted electrical power in about 20 stores on the north side of Cranberry Mall and two other businesses in Westminster for at least 90 minutes yesterday.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews found that faulty bushings that connect power lines to one of three transformers servicing the mall had worn out, a BGE spokeswoman said.
To repair the problem, crews had to de-energize the transformer and that caused blown fuses in two other transformers, she said.
The outage did not affect the south side of the mall, where customers shopped and stores operated normally.
Employees and would-be customers of the affected stores, meanwhile, stood outside or in the mall. Some of the stores could not operate electric gates that secure the entrances to their businesses.
Helen Kemp, a clerk at Bibles Plus, a Christian bookstore, said her manager used a stepladder to remove a ceiling tile and manually cranked open the entrance gate.
Emergency lights powered by a generator enabled Kemp to carry on limited business.
At Fashion Bug, sales associates Karen Voit and Meredith McCullen stood inside the darkened store behind a closed wire gate and chatted with passers-by. They said the store's emergency generator lights went out five minutes after the initial outage at about 9: 50 a.m.
Jerry Wagner, owner of Pro Image, a sports store, said the outage was hurting sales at his darkened business. He said he anticipated a greater flow of customers because schools were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"It was a good business day for us last year, so this definitely is hurting sales," he said.
Across the mall's east parking lot, customers entering the drive-through lane at Long John Silver, a fast-food restaurant, were greeted by a handwritten sign apologizing for the power outage.
Across Center Street, which borders the mall, employees at Jiffy Lube used ingenuity to stay open when the outage shut their electric doors, computers and oil pumps. "We raised the doors by hand and ran out and bought oil to service our customers," said Reno Valianti, a service technician.
BGE crews were unaware of the problems at Jiffy Lube and Long John Silver, the utility spokeswoman said. "Apparently [those businesses] are online with one of the transformers that was affected by the blown fuse," she said. Service was restored to all customers in about three hours, she said.
Pub Date: 1/21/97