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Lanett without power for hours on Christmas Eve

LANETT — Four years ago on Christmas Eve, a deluge of hard rain early Christmas Eve morning washed away two bridges and heavily damaged two others in Lanett. It took months to recover and motorists driving through town had to memorize new routes around Cherry Drive and Thrill Hill.

Christmas Eve 2019 will be remembered as the year the lights went out. Power was off throughout the city from around 8:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., or approximately three-and-a-half hours. Traffic signals were out all over town, forcing Lanett police to direct traffic at busy intersections like the one in front of Kroger on Highway 29.

Men from the Lanett Electrical Department tracked down the problem to the city’s main power substation, located behind the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) office off Highway 29. When The VT-N went there to take pictures, an exasperated lineman told the newspaper that a squirrel had gotten inside the station and “blowed everything up.”

Mayor Kyle McCoy said the electrical department did great work in getting the power restored as quickly as they did, given what happened.

A squirrel got into the most critical part of the city’s power distribution system, a connector between the main transformers.

There are several large transformers in the fenced-off area. If one of them goes out, there’s a back-up system that will kick in to keep the power going. If something happens to the connector everything goes down, and that’s what happened.

“We have all kinds of protective measures to keep this from happening,” McCoy said. “We have netting and cages to keep the squirrels out. You know how it is. If a squirrel wants to get in, he will find a way in. We hate it because it was such an inconvenience for our customers, but we really appreciate the hard work done by the men in the electrical department. Really, given the problem they had and what they had to replace, they really got the power going again as fast as we could expect. What happened this year was nothing like what happened four years ago on Christmas Eve, and we are glad for that.”

The City of Lanett has approximately 3,400 electrical customers.