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Scheduled power outages affect Vandalia

Posted on Thursday, November 16, 2023 at 7:55 pm

Local man arrested for interfering with police UAV

By Amy Elliott

During the overnight hours of Nov. 6, 7 and 8, the citizens of Vandalia were without power because of scheduled power outages to energize a new substation.

Crews from the City of Vandalia and Central Electric Cooperative worked to energize the new substation, which was constructed by Central Electric after a substation fire in April 2020.

That fire was caused by a resident who cut down a large tree on his property.

The tree inadvertently landed on power lines, which caused a high fault amp current and started the substation fire. The city as a whole was out of power for about 12 hours. The northeast side was without power for a bit longer.

According to a Facebook post by the City of Vandalia, Central Electric has constructed a new Electric Substation for the city of Vandalia. The new substation was a necessity to make sure there wasn’t an unscheduled power outage like the one in 2020.

Central Electric said they are here to help better serve the citizens of Vandalia with increased staff and experience in operating the substations.

The scheduled power outages were from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.,while multiple crews from Central Electric, the City of Vandalia and other contractors completed the distribution work and switched over to energize the new substation as they took the old substation out of service.

Although the power to the city was shut off, Audrain County Sherriff Department deputies patrolled the city with nine patrol vehicles, two of them were K9 units and one was a drone pilot.

According to a Facebook comment by Sheriff Matt Oller, all deputies were out moving and making contact with all individuals that were out. They utilized a UAV drone with thermal imaging to observe anyone lurking around, as well to help keep the community safe.

On the second night of the outages, Nov. 7, Audrain County Sherriff’s office reported that the UAV drone pilot was observing the area with the department’s UAV, which is equipped with Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR).

According to the report, during one of the observation flights, the drone was “attacked” by another drone that was being flown by an unknown person in an attempt to cause a crash. The sheriff’s office UAV Pilot was able to evade the drone and then located the operator using its infrared camera.

The pilot was then able to guide the deputies to the suspected civilian drone user’s location where he was arrested. The drone and related equipment were seized as part of the investigation.

The drone attacker was identified as Ryan D. Breden of Vandalia. Breden was one of the subjects ACSO has contacted the night before, at about 1 a.m. during the first night of the power outage.

Breden was transported to the Audrain County Jail and booked for attempted first-degree property damage, felony charge, and obstructing government operations. In addition, records will be forwarded to the Federal Aviation Administration for possible Federal law violations.

The final night of the outages seemed to go without incident. The Audrain County Sheriff’s deputies patrolled heavily to keep citizens and their property safe.

Many citizens wonder why the city scheduled such lengthy outages. This was necessary, the company said because of the safety of the crews working on energizing the new substation and taking the old substation out of service.

Even though people voiced their concerns on Facebook about different medical devices that are needed, the community worked together and planned how they would handle the outages. Some had generators, and others stayed out of town to make sure they had everything they needed if they didn’t have a generator.

Neighbors watched out for each other as this unavoidable switch was made. New power lines now supply Vandalia with voltages of 69KV or higher. Although the switch seemed like an inconvenience to the residents and businesses in Vandalia, it was completed at night to keep business from having to close during operating hours, which could have caused a loss of wages for employees and profits for the businesses. Also, the safety of all crews involved in the upgrade was paramount when the decision was made to conduct the switch at night..