October 10, 1996 in Washington Voices

Big Power Surge Damages Appliances In Six Valley Homes

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A power surge late Friday blew out lights, sent sparks flying and caused several thousand dollars worth of damage inside six south Spokane Valley homes.

Damage at the houses in the 10900 block of east 18th and 19th ranged from exploded light bulbs to broken furnaces. A street light also exploded during the 11:45 p.m. surge. No one was injured.

Fred Cronkhite was watching a video recording of his teenage daughter’s cheerleading performance when the lights in his home suddenly became extremely bright.

“It was like I was sitting at the stadium,” Cronkhite said.

The bright light lasted long enough for Cronkhite to comment and stand up. By the time he figured out what was happening, the lights exploded. The television also went blank and sparks sprayed from two surge protectors behind it.

“I thought, ‘TV’ and I dove for it and it was gone,” Cronkhite said.

While Cronkhite called firefighters and unplugged appliances, five of his neighbors surveyed the damage inside their homes.

Their losses included furnaces, television sets and light bulbs.

“Somebody told me they thought it was 440 (volts) that came into the house,” Cronkhite said.

The surge burned insulation off one of the power lines leading from Cronkhite’s house. Firefighters traced the line to a pole that supplied power to the six residents.

One of three lines that extend from the transformer - called the “neutral line” - disconnected causing the surge, said Dana Anderson, Washington Water Power spokeswoman. Gusty winds might have blown something into the line, knocking it down, Anderson said.

“This is very uncommon,” she said, adding there was no way to measure how much voltage traveled into the homes.

The utility plans to pay the deductible on each homeowner’s insurance, Anderson said.

Cronkhite’s house appeared to be the hardest hit by the surge. A refrigerator, two televisions, two videocassette recorders, a compact disc player, three telephones, a cable converter box, two surge protectors, battery charges and numerous light bulbs were destroyed.

Initial estimates by firefighters had damages totaling $2,500.

“It was intense,” Cronkhite said.

Power was restored three hours after the surge.

Joan McGuire is still trying to determine the extent of the damage at her house. She was asleep when the surge hit her house on 19th.

“I smelled some stuff burning and got up,” McGuire said.

A refrigerator and automatic garage door opener were her biggest losses. Light bulbs and a part on her furnace also were among the known damages.

“But who knows until you got to use some of those things,” McGuire said.

, DataTimes


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