When the lights went out in Selma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2004

At 4 p.m. yesterday, downtown Selma was selling, buying and working just fine. Then everything went dark.

An incoming storm caused a four-hour blackout, shutting down the entire downtown section of Selma. Several businesses reported two or more hours of lost time. Most of the entire downtown area was idle, and employees and residents could be seen in the streets after the outage. All the traffic lights downtown were out and police dispatched crossing guards and officers to the intersections downtown to direct traffic.

Alan Dailey, of Butler-Truax Jewelry, said the outage could cost them more than lost revenue.

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“We won’t know until tomorrow if we have any computer damage,” Dailey said.

The blackout occurred when high winds from the storm caused power lines at the end of Dallas Avenue to twist around each other.

Several people reported seeing “fire” jump from pole to pole.

Alabama Power crew foreman Osie Cunningham was dispatched to repair the damage.

“It was high winds…they (the winds) didn’t touch the ground,” Cunningham said. “(It) got all the wires wrapped together.”

When the lines got tangled, Cunningham said, a substation nearby was damaged, causing the shutdown.

Cunningham said that the lines and substation would take three to four hours to repair. His crew started working on the lines at 5:30 p.m. Power returned about a half-hour ahead of schedule at approximately 8 p.m.

Cunningham said the entire area was without power, from Pettus Street to Martin Luther King Street.

By then, most of the businesses downtown had closed for the day.

Pilcher-McBryde held on for as long as it could, though the power loss meant they couldn’t fill prescriptions.

“We can still sell front end stuff,” Pilcher-McBride’s Alfred Stewart said. “(But), it’s completely shut us down.”

Pilcher-McBryde requires computers to fill every prescription. Stewart said that even after the power was returned they would still be feeling the effects in the morning.

“Tomorrow, we’re going to have to do a day and a half’s work in a day,” Stewart said. “On top of that, I’m a hot natured person, (and) I don’t have air conditioning.”