JOHN DAY - The ripple effect of a power outage that started more than 70 miles away kept local businesses and agencies busy last week, fixing glitches and replacing computer parts.

Utility officials say the outage, on May 6, didn't follow the usual pattern.

Spring weather patterns can bring unpredictable storms - the leading cause of power outages.

"The power can go out for a variety of reasons, but it's mostly weather-related," said John Stearns, of Oregon Trail Electric Co-op (OTEC).

However, that wasn't the case in last week's outage, when over 3,000 Grant County consumers were left without power for nearly three hours.

The outage originated over 70 miles away and was caused when a connection from OTEC's supplier, Idaho Power, was disrupted.

"They had an equipment failure on their transmission line located at the Hines substation," Stearns said. "They're taking action to fix it."

Outages can cause minimal to severe damage to computer systems.

Education Service District (ESD) maintains the computer system to county schools. Although most schools were unaffected by the May 6 outage, a few local schools were unable to access the internet on Monday.

The outage blew power supplies and microwave radios that connect schools to the ESD.

That was an easy fix, said Robert Waltenburg, ESD technology director, because they had the necessary supplies on hand to fix that problem.

The outage also caused damage to several UPS (uninterruptible power supply) units and parts to fix them were not readily on hand.

According to Waltenburg, the ESD does not usually suffer many effects from power outages because they have a back-up generator and large UPS units.

"We usually weather them pretty well," said Waltenburg.

Jackson's Shell in Canyon City was unable to pump gas during the power outage, but when the power came back on they were left with other problems.

The power surge associated with the outage caused their hard drive to crash, leaving them unable to scan merchandise or run credit cards until the problem was discovered and fixed over 24 hours later.

"We had to do everything by hand, and it's hard to keep track of inventory," said Greg Jackson, owner of Jackson's Shell.

A technician came from Bend to fix the problem and by 6:30 p.m. Monday they were fully operational.

Along with lost business and the cost for repairs, they had to sort through the mess of manual transactions made during and after the outage.

"It was awful," Jackson said.

The best way to protect electronics is to plug them into surge suppressors, Stearns said.

"If there is an outage, turn off or unplug things you want to protect," Stearns added.

Report power outages to the OTEC office, regardless of whether it's a weekend or the middle of the night. There are always OTEC employees on call and power can't be restored if they don't know it's out, Stearns said.

"Everything is in place so that when the power is out we can get power back to our consumers as soon as possible," Stearns said.

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