Power outage disrupts jail in Westminster


Utility crews have not determined the cause of a power failure in Westminster yesterday that inconvenienced businesses and caused tense moments at the county detention center, where a backup generator malfunctioned.

Speculation that a small animal had tripped a fuse at a substation and knocked out six large feeder lines was unfounded, said Brenda Pettigrew, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman.

"Our crews found no evidence of animal involvement and don't know the cause," Pettigrew said

She noted that 3,800 customers were affected when power went out at 1: 07 p.m.

All service was restored by 2: 15 p.m., Pettigrew said.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning, who oversees the county jail, said correctional officers were not endangered when the backup generator failed, creating an emergency lockdown situation.

"Main doors automatically lock whenever the power goes out," Tregoning said.

Lunch had ended, so most of the prisoners in each unit were in the day rooms, he said.

After an immediate count to determine that all prisoners and guards were accounted for, officers began ushering inmates to their cells to minimize inmate contact and improve internal security, he said.

All were present and no one was injured, he said.

In some instances, cell doors were secured with handcuffs or leg irons because the cell doors could not be manually locked with keys, Tregoning said.

County workers repaired the generator within about 15 minutes, he said.

Along Westminster's Main Street, professionals, shop owners and customers appeared to take the power failure in stride.

State and local police reported no major traffic problems during the blackout.

"Some officers directed traffic at a few intersections, but mostly the outage was sporadic," a police spokesman said.

Pub Date: 2/05/99

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