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ASPA says a lightning surge caused the island wide blackout

The ASPA Operations building in Tafuna

 Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  Acting Executive Director of the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) Wallon Young says the island wide blackout that affected the territory this past Sunday evening was due to a lightning surge that struck the main switchboard at the ASPA Tafuna power plant around 10:35 p.m.

“ASPA sincerely apologizes for the islandwide blackout on Tutuila on Sunday night,” Young wrote in an email to Samoa News.

And while the power was out - several minutes for some residents of the east side and hours for west side folks - social media was not. Some residents aired their frustrations online about being hot without their fans and AC units working, while others were voicing their support of ASPA crew members who were called in after-hours to resolve the problem.

According to Young, the strike caused the surge arrestors protecting the 13.2KV switchboard to rupture, resulting in the cascade tripping of generator sets at both ASPA power plants: Tafuna and Satala.

In addition, “the surge also caused the failure of  potential transformers on one of two 13.2KV Tie Line circuits at the Tafuna plant. The electronics on two  34.5KV vacuum switches for two major Tie Line transformers at Tafuna substation were also damaged,” Young continued.

He said ASPA technicians and engineers worked throughout the night to repair the damage switchgear at the Tafuna plant, and were able to restore power to all customers on the western half of Tutuila by 4:20a.m. Monday morning - almost 6 hours after the power first went off.

Immediately after the blackout, Young said plant operators proceeded to disconnect the Satala plant from the Tafuna plant. The Satala plant was restarted at 10:50 p.m. and Feeder-8 which runs from Satala to the LBJ Hospital was energized first.

Feeder- 3 supplying power to Fagasa and parts of PagoPago and Feeder-1 supplying power to the Eastern side, were both energized at 11:00p.m.

The STP and Starkist Feeders were energized shortly thereafter at 11:16p.m.

ASPA technicians and operators were also able to energize Feeder-5 supplying power from the Tafuna plant to the LBJ Hospital by 1:45a.m.

Feeder-6 was restored at 3:00a.m. followed by Feeder-9 at 3:45a.m. Feeder-10 was the last Feeder to be restored, at 4:20a.m.

Young explained that the damaged switchboard at the Tafuna power plant was installed in 1972 and ASPA will be replacing it by December this year.

Late morning yesterday, the power went off again. Students who attend schools on the west side were released early — at noon — not only because of the power outage, but some reportedly had a lack of running water.

The town area also experienced a brief blackout late yesterday morning. Restaurants in the bay area reportedly had to close their kitchens and turn customers away because of the power outage. A number of parents told Samoa News they opted to take the rest of the day off, as they were forced to pick up their children from school mid-day.

As of press time yesterday, Malaeloa and other west side villages - where power was restored around 4:30 a.m. and later shut off around 10 a.m. yesterday - were still without power.