Main Street transformer catches fire, causing power outages. Traffic now restored

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By Thursday, Sep 7 News  5 Comments
Richard John Ball
A Main Street utility pole snapped near the top early this morning and caused power outages and traffic detours downtown.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information from Chief Burger.

Great Barrington — A transformer on a utility pole on Main Street caught fire this morning, causing a power outage and traffic headaches for the thousands who commute through downtown on a typical weekday.

Great Barrington fire Chief Charlie Burger announced on the department’s Facebook page at 6:45 a.m. that the northern portion of Main Street would be closed until further notice as linesmen from National Grid worked to repair the pole and the transformer.

At 11:42 a.m., Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin issued an all-clear, via the town’s CODE RED information network, that Main Street traffic had returned to normal.

A photo captured and posted on social media by Mill River resident Richard John Ball showed a utility pole on the west side of Main Street partially severed near the top. The pole is near Dempsey Physical Therapy and John B. Hull, just to the north of Cumberland Farms.

Traffic was being rerouted from State Road to East Street and Bridge Street, where motorists reported vehicles were moving very slowly, if at all. The bottleneck on East Street was surely made worse by the fact that the Bridge Street bridge is currently under repair and has been reduced to one lane with a traffic light.

“Great Barrington Police, GBFD, and Great Barrington DPW are currently working to reroute traffic as effectively as possible,” Burger said.

At 8:16 a.m., Burger sent out an email blast that read, “Main Street between State Road and Cottage Street is closed for the next few hours while National Grid makes emergency repairs.”

Great Barrington Police Officer at the intersection of Bridge and East streets directs rerouted traffic. Photo: David Scribner

According to National Grid’s online power outage map, the outage began at 6:05 a.m. and, as of 9:30 a.m., was still affecting 17 customers. The company had estimated service would not be fully restored by 2 p.m.

In an interview at about 1:30 p.m., Burger said the pole has been replaced but that National Grid was still working to restore power to the 17 affected customers. Shortly after our conversation, the National Grid outage map said power had been fully restored.

Burger said the transformer did not ignite first, as he initially thought. Rather, it appears that the pole itself caught fire first.

“The pole itself actually burned through, which caused the top of pole and transformer to fall off,” Burger explained, adding that he guesses an electrical short must have been the cause.

When firefighters arrived at about 6:20, the pole was still burning. The fire department, however, can do little firefighting until National Grid cuts the power. Burger said firefighters promptly established a perimeter and began detouring traffic.

The detouring is not as easy as it might seem because numerous tractor trailers and other large vehicles had to be rerouted onto East and Bridge streets. Those vehicles cannot make the wide turn from one of those narrow streets to the other without stopping traffic in both directions, adding to the congestion caused by the one-lane Bridge Street bridge and to the complexity of the detour itself.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.


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5 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Carole Owens says:

    Thank you for the speedy reporting — am heading to Main St GB for meeting and appreciate it.

  2. AJ says:

    If the police rerouted “traffic as effectively as possible” we have far greater problems than can be imagined. The one lane bridge on Bridge Street was left solely to the devices of the temporary traffic light, with no police in sight, effectively reducing the entire traffic “flow” through GB to just one single lane. The GB Police Department should be formally schooled in how to conduct emergency traffic re-routes!

    1. Jim Johnston says:

      Maybe you should have strapped on a traffic vest and helped them out since you seem to know so much about traffic routing. There are a limited number of cops on duty at any time, do you want one at every corner? I’m sure all emergencies took a break during this too. Get a grip.

  3. Laura says:

    what they should have done was rerouted traffic through Main and down to Cottage Street. Due to the one way traffic on Bridge St due
    to the bridge repair, people thought they couldn’t get on Main Street unless they asked the cop if they could go to any of the stores there further creating a backlog.

    1. Karen Smith says:

      I was routed along Cottage Street. The GBPD and GBFD with limited manpower got this situation taken care of beautifully. There are many details like school bus routing , irate citizens calling in wanting an answer as to what is going on, trailer trucks etc that were dealt with. No one was hurt and yes we were delayed but with all that is going on on the world, stop whining and be grateful we have departments that do their job and do it well.

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