Underground fire causes power outage in South Bend

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 16, 2014 at 6:33 pm •  Published: May 16, 2014
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — An underground electrical fire left about 800 homes and businesses in downtown South Bend without power Friday as thousands of people are in town for the University of Notre Dame's weekend commencement ceremonies.

Indiana Michigan Power spokesman Mark Robinson said the utility cut power to downtown South Bend as a precaution after the fire late Thursday seriously damaged power circuits in underground vaults that house part of the city's electrical grid.

Robinson said crews from Fort Wayne and Columbus, Ohio, were helping local crews. I&M President Paul Chodak said power was expected to be restored by noon Sunday, possibly earlier. He apologized for the inconvenience.

"I know this is a particularly difficult weekend for this to occur," he said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

Deputy Mayor Mark Neal said most of the businesses downtown that are normally open at night were expected to be open Friday night, saying a number of them had brought in generators. He also said temporary streetlights were put up in some places and additional police patrols would be out.

"We're confident we'll be able to have a vibrant downtown just as you would on any Friday night other than some cool weather," he said.

The Notre Dame campus, about 2 miles north of downtown, was not affected by the outage and was not planning changes to weekend commencement events. But the school urged students to alert their families and other guests about the situation so they could check with hotels and restaurants to ensure those establishments remain open.

The city and Downtown South Bend Inc. brought in two large generators from Indianapolis to help power the city's Century Center, the DoubleTree hotel and other downtown businesses, Scott Ford, South Bend's executive director of community investment, told the South Bend Tribune, which wasn't able to publish Friday's newspaper in time for morning delivery after the power outage idled its printing presses. The Tribune posted a note to readers on its website saying it had a generator in place and Friday's newspaper would be delivered at the same time as Saturday's.