Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Joan Noyes (left) and Melanie Shull shop by flashlight at the Fort Custer General Store during last Thursday afternoon’s power outage. They stopped in to buy sealer for the purpose of acrylic painting.

Center Avenue shutdown

Unknown circumstances lead to temporary power shortage in Hardin
Three blocks of downtown Hardin lost power around 2 p.m. last Thursday afternoon in an incident that Butch Larcombe, spokesman for NorthWestern Energy, called “mysterious, but common.” When the company restored power by 4:40 p.m., he was still unsure why the lights went out.
“I talked to our service man in Hardin and he was unable to find a cause,” Larcombe said.
The incident affected an estimated 70 customers, he said, and could have been caused by an animal, wind or a falling tree branch.
Three blocks along Center Avenue were impacted. This strip is home to places such as the Fort Custer General Store – where enterprising customers shopped by flashlight – and the Big Horn County Library – where Clifford the Big Red Dog had just arrived to meet a group of children. 
The west side of Center’s 200 block was fully dark. For some places bordering the 300 and 400 blocks, however, including the library, the situation was more complicated. In some areas of the library, the power and electronic appliances worked; in others, they did not.
Librarian Donelle Boyer entered the perplexing scene behind Clifford the Big Red Dog and, at first, believed the shut-off may have been done for theatrical reasons. 
“We had to reroute our fish tank,” Boyer said during the outage as children ran about and the temperature was increasing due to a lack of air conditioning. “It’s hit-and-miss and it’s throughout our whole building.”
The kids – decked in paper Clifford ears – made the best of the situation, and had little difficulty playing games and taking pictures with the Scholastic-approved dog.
Two blocks away, Holly Lang of Headquarters hair salon was finishing a shampoo set for a customer and found that the lights were off and her clippers didn’t work. Fortunately for Lang, her set was nearly done and she could finish combing the customer’s hair by the window looking out toward Center Avenue.
Lang, who has worked on the 200 block since 1991, can’t recall the last time the area’s power went out.
“Thank goodness she got dry; I mean, she just walked from here to here when the power went out,” Lang said later as she pointed from the salon’s hair dryer to a nearby chair. “Otherwise, we would have had to go sit in the sun or something.”
Despite brief resistance, businesses along Center Avenue closed up early that day, which gave employees more time to arrive well rested the following morning.
As for Larcombe, the mystery of the Hardin power outage is something he will likely never solve.
“It would take a lot of work, and even then we might not know,” he said.