Severe weather late Friday afternoon knocked out power to most of Waynesville’s downtown area about 5 p.m.
While most affected customers were businesses that are closed in the evening, Pulaski County Sheriff J.B. King said his backup generator failed, knocking out all operations of his dispatchers and plunging the jail into darkness.
“We have no radio, no fingerprint machine, no MULES (Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System), no air conditioning; we are out of business,” King said. “We desperately need a generator to power the courthouse, including the operations of the sheriff’s department.”
King said one of his dispatchers went to her home, which still had electrical power, so she could receive cell phone calls from the Pulaski County 911 Center asking her to verify warrants issued by the sheriff’s department if a deputy or another police agency found a person who state records show has an arrest warrant. State procedure requires that if a motorist is stopped and the MULES system reports that he has an arrest warrant, the agency issuing the warrant has only 10 minutes to confirm the warrant is active.
There’s no excuse for leaving a sheriff’s department without power, King said.
“The generator starts, runs for a few minutes, overheats and quits. It’s a piece of military surplus that is basically junk,” King said. “We have asked repeatedly for a modern generator that can power the courthouse. We believe it would be in the $150,000 to $175,000 range but we’ve never been able to get a study done to tell for sure.”
Waynesville City Administrator Bruce Harrill said the damage appeared to be confined to feeder line number two, which powers the downtown area.
“It was basically the downtown area, which is mostly businesses, and a few residences in the area, but we’re not sure how many,” Harrill said early in the outage. “We did get quite a few telephone calls about the service being out.”
Later estimates showed the power outage affected about 60 to 70 residential customers, Harrill said.
Harrill said at 7 p.m. Friday that his electrical workers expected to be able to find and fix the problem within an hour. Power was restored earlier than expected and was turned back on at 7:35 p.m., Harrill said.
“It was caused by two lighting strikes to our second feeder line,” Harrill said. “I don’t think it was real costly; just a few minor materials and some overtime. I don’t think any of the transformers blew. We just had to repair one of the arms and fuses.”
While the city maintains a list of customers with emergency medical needs such as oxygen machines that require electrical power, Harrill said he wasn’t aware of any residential customers for whom the power loss created a critical need.