Large parts of Lawton remained dark on Wednesday afternoon and officials said that they may stay that way into Thursday after an electrical substation fire sparked widespread power outages.
Officials with Public Service Company of Oklahoma said crews are working to restore service, but the exact cause of the fire is unknown and teams will have more information once they have been able to safely access the area and assess the damage. Once the extent of damage is known, officials can provide an estimate of restoration of service.
Tim Hushbeck, spokesman for PSO, said early Wednesday that while the cause was still under investigation, the fire appears to have started from a lightning strike from a storm that hit the area sometime around 4 a.m.
With power down, operations at the Lawton Public Safety Building were running on generators Wednesday morning, according to Sgt. Christopher Blessing, Lawton Police information officer.
“Everything is all good, we’re on these powerful generators,” he said. “Things are at about 90 percent.”
That means booking into the City Jail and basic necessities for operations are being met, Blessing said. Amenities such as the ovens and laundry unit were unavailable.
Patrol units were still running operational, according to Blessing. However, the Criminal Investigation Division detectives are being hindered.
“The detectives need the internet and computers (as part of their investigations),” he said. “It’s proving to be a hinderance in detective operations.”
The Municipal Court remained opens. Payments made to the court could still be made and court cases continued being heard.
Blessing said word was received the Comanche County Courthouse was shut down for business. Even if power was restored at noon, he said, there would not be an initial appearances or court hearings.
The Comanche County Detention Center, too, has powerful generators and continued to facilitate necessities for its inmates and staff to operate.
Lawton Public Schools switched its students to a virtual day on Wednesday, citing power outages across the city. Flower Mound, Bishop, Elgin and Fletcher announced they would cancel school.
Lawton City Hall expects to be without power for the remainder of the work day, but a generator is allowing some departments to continue operations. That includes the utility services division (water department) and license and permits, but business is being done manually, rather than using computers.
Lawton Public Library, and the Owens Multi-Purpose and Patterson community centers are closed, but H.C. King Center remains open because it has power, city officials said.
The Lawton Public Safety Center also is without power, but some areas – including municipal court – are functioning on generator power, meaning they are open.
Traffic signal lights in affected areas also down, and city officials are asking drivers to treat all intersections usually controlled by signal lights as four-way stops.
The outage also affected several area towns, but power had been restored to Elgin, Fletcher, Apache, Lake Ellsworth and Cement by late morning.
While there were scattered small outages in west Lawton in the morning, the brunt of the problem could be seen in east Lawton and as far west as downtown and as far south as Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport and the surrounding area. In the heaviest affected area, almost 8,500 customers lost power about 5 a.m. Elgin, Fletcher, Apache, Cement and the Lake Ellsworth area also lost power about 6:17 a.m., adding another 8,400 customers.
Power outages spread to west Lawton around 1:30 p.m. Affected areas include a portion of the west industrial park, from northwest 67th Street to Paint Road and most of Lawton to Northwest 38th Street.
PSO customers in the area who have power can help the restoration process by conserving power. PSO said there is the potential for additional outages in the Lawton area as they work.