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Crash leaves thousands powerless

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff

BATTLEMENT MESA – Thousands were without power early Tuesday morning, and two District 16 schools canceled classes after a car crashed into a power line pole.A 1993 Jeep Cherokee crashed into and knocked down one of Holy Cross Energy’s most important overhead power line poles on Stone Quarry Road Monday night, close to midnight.Bob Gardner, spokesman for Holy Cross, said the outage affected more than 2,000 accounts south of the Colorado River. Alcohol and speed are suspected factors in the crash, according to a Colorado State Patrol press release. The driver, 35-year-old Manuel G. Lara of Battlement Mesa, was not wearing a seat belt, and was thrown into the rear of the car. He was taken to Grand River Medical Center in Rifle.Officials canceled classes at Bea Underwood Elementary School and L.W. St John Middle School because the schools’ boilers could not run without electricity. It would have taken too long to reheat the schools once the power came back on.”The buildings were just too cold to have classes,” said Sandy Hanson, District 16 public relations director. “They’re brick buildings and they don’t retain heat very well.”Heat was also an issue for local residents.”It’s scary how dependent we are on electricity,” said Bob Campbell, a Battlement Mesa resident. “It was 55 degrees inside my house this morning. The heat was out all night.”Linda Berry, another Battlement resident, said she had a similar experience.”Flannel sheets are so wonderful,” Berry said.Most Battlement Mesa residents did not have power until 6:47 a.m. Tuesday.Campbell said he had to open his electric garage door with a manual crank in order to leave the house Tuesday morning – and he had to use a flashlight in order to find the crank.Gardner said 13 repairmen were dispatched to the site. “It was a very involved repair,” he said. “They had to take out the old pole, put in a new pole and replace some of the wires.”Gardner said the crew was able to reroute some power to restore electricity to about 500 customers around 2 a.m.That was lucky for City Market. Alberta Neuleib, the store manager, said she woke up in the dark at home around 2 a.m.”The first thing I thought, was ‘Oh no, my store,'” Neuleib said. She went into City Market at 3 a.m. and said she was pleasantly surprised to find the power was on and all of her refrigerators and freezers were running.”I have a backup generator, but that doesn’t run the refrigerators,” Neuleib said. “We just got lucky.”


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