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Boom signaled power-line arc in Walton Hills


John P. Coyne
Plain Dealer Reporter

Walton Hills- Adam Muha, 18, was in his home on Dunham Road at 3:32 p.m. Aug. 14 when he heard what he described as two loud explosions within seconds of each other, causing his house to shake.

He noticed smoke coming from his dishwasher and hurriedly called his father, who was on his way home from work.

Then Muha ran outside. He was met by an employee of Nelson Tree Service who was running up his driveway.

"Quick, get out of here," the Nelson employee told Muha. "If that line comes down, your car will melt, our truck will melt and we will melt."

Ron Muha, Adam's father, said that when he returned home a short time later, he was told by Nelson employees that a sagging 345-kilovolt electrical transmission line across the street from his home had arced, causing a tree a dozen feet below it to catch fire. Ron Muha said the power surge burned out his dishwasher, air conditioner, two stereos, cable service and three outlets.

Later that evening, at least 10 Nelson trucks were parked on Dunham Road while workers cut trees under the transmission lines, working into the night using lights, Ron Muha said. The company has a contract to cut trees for FirstEnergy Corp.

Walton Hills Mayor Marlene Anielski said most of Walton Hills lost power 39 minutes after the explosions were heard as a major blackout darkened parts of eight states and Ontario. The power remained out in Walton Hills until about 7:30 the following morning, she said.

Anielski said a representative of FirstEnergy told her no explosion occurred. The booms that were heard most likely came from the high-voltage line arcing.

Acting Walton Hills Police Chief Gary Rhines said the arcing occurred on First Energy's Hanna-Juniper transmission line, about 1,500 feet southeast of the Juniper substation on Alexander Road.

Patrolman Steve Davis, the first officer to respond to calls about the explosion, said one of the Nelson workers told him they were working on the west side of Dunham when the arcing occurred on the east side of the street. "The guy said they were lucky they were still alive. It was that big," Davis said.

Police evacuated several Dunham Road homes and closed the street between Alexander and Sagamore roads for seven hours.

Rhines said that although the village's traffic lights were not working, his dispatchers received reports of only one accident, a car that smashed into the rear of another car that had stopped at an intersection where the traffic light was out.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jcoyne@plaind.com, 216-999-4845

© 2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

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