Power returns to more than 5,000 Westar customers affected by Friday afternoon outage

Power failures in Old West Lawrence Friday afternoon affected thousands of residents and several businesses while and knocking out several traffic signals.

Westar Energy reported 5,228 customers were without power at the height of the outage, which lasted more than two hours Friday. The affected zone included areas west of Massachusetts Street, south to 15th Street and north of Sixth Street. Power was restored around 5 p.m.

According to a Westar official at the substation at Sixth and Kentucky streets, a switch failed at that substation about 2:30 p.m. The problem was not related to work that Westar recently undertook at the station, in hopes of halting failures that had been occurring in Downtown Lawrence, the official said.

Several traffic signals along Sixth and Ninth streets were reported to be out during the power failure.

“It completely shut us down,” said Ivan Albers, manager of the Papa John’s Pizza, 918 Miss. “The only thing on in this store was the emergency lights.”

Some businesses were able to remain open despite the loss of electricity.

“We had our phone calculators out,” said Brendan Dowdle, general manager of the Cork & Barrel, 901 Miss. Employees went around with customers and consulted posted prices, and checked customers out without the aid of electric cash registers.

“It’s frustrating, but we’ve had it happen multiple times before, so we know what to do,” Dowdle said.

The Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., was closed during the outage, and the Outdoor Aquatic Center, 727 Ky., closed for the day.

Without power, the pumps and filtration systems cannot operate to keep the water at the appropriate chemical balance, Jimmy Gibbs, aquatic manager, said in a press release. The Outdoor Aquatic Center is scheduled to reopen on its regular schedule Saturday.