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Plane clips power lines causing major power outage

A crop duster about to spray a field just north of Cairo clipped an electrical transmission line and thousands of  homes and businesses in Grady County and portions of Thomas and Decatur counties lost electric power Saturday morning.
Luckily, the pilot, identified as Gary Prince, was able to maintain control and land the plane safely at Cairo Municipal Airport, even though a portion of the transmission line was still attached to his aircraft.
It was around 10:15 a.m. when the pilot, who flies a Cessna crop dusting plane out of the Cairo airport, had the accident, according to Larry Bible, manager of Cairo Municipal Airport. The power line was broken on Robert Willis Road near its intersection with Harper Road.
Rick Kines, electricity superintendent for the city of Cairo, said most Cairo customers were without power for just over two hours. Grady EMC customers had 4,500 customers in Grady County and a small portion of Decatur County west of Whigham out for about two hours, and about 600 more customers out two-and-a-half hours. City of Whigham customers lost power for about 30 minutes, according to officials there.
The transmission line is owned by MEAG Power (Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia), but is maintained by Georgia Power, Kines reports. Georgia Power sent crews from Albany, Tifton and Bainbridge to repair the damage.
Both Kines and Grady EMC’s Wayne Windham report their crews were able to reroute power to provide customers with electricity quicker than it took the Georgia Power crews to restring the lines. Kines said because electricity demand was well below peak levels and Timken was not in operation that day, except for a cleaning crew, rerouting the power worked.
It was 11 p.m. before Georgia Power was able to put the lines back up and repower the affected electrical substations of the city of Cairo and Grady EMC.
Cairo police were called into action to help direct traffic at major intersections during the power outage and, later, Cairo firefighters assisted the police with that task.
At the suggestion of Cairo Mayor Pro Tem Ernest Cloud Jr., crews with the city’s public works department visited various businesses downtown to advise them of the situation. Feedback to Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton on that effort was positive, he reported.
The city of Cairo’s utility office lost its phone system during the outage when a battery backup unit in the building ran out of juice. Cloud reported that city personnel lost cell service also.
At Monday’s Cairo City Council meeting, the council asked Addleton to review the phone situation. The city currently uses Nextel Touch to Talk phones, which serve as walkie-talkies as well as cell phones. However, coverage and service are questionable, the council learned.

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