Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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December 9, 2009

Duke Energy reports 4,200 Kokomo customers lose power

Employees of Casey’s General Store on Webster Street stood in the building with no lights on and the doors locked early Wednesday afternoon.

Outside, the wind howled as gusts up to 50 mph blew snow horizontally through the canopy-covered gas pumps.

Aaron Roseberry, a manager for the franchise, said the employees had no choice but to close the store. Without electricity, the gas pumps would not work.

A few minutes later, the lights came on and they were back in business.

The gas station/convenience store was one of several thousand businesses and homes scattered around Howard County that lost power Wednesday because of high-speed wind gusts that ripped down power lines.

Duke Energy reported 4,200 outages in its Kokomo district. There are about 41,000 customers in the area.

There were 266 customers left without power as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Angeline Protogere, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said Kokomo was the hardest hit by power outages among the company’s 780,000 customers in the state.

A power outage forced Indiana University Kokomo to cancel classes for most of Wednesday.

Paul Nowak, IU Kokomo’s vice chancellor for external relations, said the university lost power about 11 a.m., forcing it to close its doors for afternoon and evening classes. Nowak expected classes to resume today.

The campus has back-up generators that provide power for essential functions, such as security lights, Nowak said, but they do not provide enough energy for the campus to operate as normal.

“I don’t recall ever losing power for an extended period when we had to close down campus” before Wednesday, he said.

The last time IU Kokomo canceled classes was after a heavy snowfall in January. But administrators closed the university because of safety reasons, not a power outage, Nowak said.

Maple Crest Elementary School, Maple Crest Middle School and the Kokomo-Center Schools administration building also lost power, but classes continued by flashlight, KCS spokesman Dave Barnes said.

Because the outage happened during lunch for many of the students — on a day when pizza is usually served — the schools ordered more pizza to make sure all of the kids had a hot lunch, Barnes said.

“The kids were having a great time,” Barnes said. “That’s what education’s all about. It’s a whole new experience.”

• Scott Smith, Tribune staff writer, contributed to this report.

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