Cause of Power Outage Unknown, but Clearly It Ended Just in Time

By MANDY LOCKE and ALEXIS TONTI

For 75 minutes at dusk yesterday, the lights went out from Aquinnah to Vineyard Haven as a power outage affected most of the Island.

But the only sounds of panic came from Red Sox fans chomping at the bit for electricity to be restored before the gripping American League Championship Series tie-breaker. Those who couldn't risk the gamble fled to Oak Bluffs, the only town that maintained power throughout the outage.

There was no parking along Circuit avenue, the restaurants were slammed and the phones were ringing with one question: Do you have power?

By 6:40 p.m., NStar restored power to the Island, one hour and twenty minutes before game time. By late evening, NStar crews were still scratching their heads about the outage that froze electricity for more than 14,000 customers on the Island and lower Cape.

"We're still looking. We don't know whether it was above ground, underground or underwater," said Mike Durand, spokesman for NStar out of Boston.

The crews rerouted electricity, bypassing the dead areas. By 7:45, the last 1,400 customers without power regained electricity.

Three underwater cables supply power to the Island, one running through Oak Bluffs and the other feeding into Vineyard Haven. The Oak Bluffs cable did not appear to be affected.

Along many streets, some residents maintained power throughout the evening, while their neighbors did without. Within many neighborhoods, more than one cable services residences - explaining the spotty outages yesterday.

Word of the blackout spread quickly around the Island. In West Tisbury, Paul Garcia of Back Alley's lost power a little after 5 p.m. "I dug up an old desk phone from the barn and was able to call NStar," he said. "They were clueless."

Driving east on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, the high school and ice arena were dark, the blinker light down. At 6:30 p.m. one employee remained at the NStar building. He said the company did not know the cause of the power outages. Call the office in Westwood, he said.

Ten minutes later, power returned to one side of Main street in Vineyard Haven. Café Moxie had already closed for the night. During the outage they packed much of the food on ice. The refrigerators and freezers stayed shut, and the few remaining customers were sent home.

Across the street the marquee above the Capawock movie theatre was still dark. One of its employees, Chris Alley, waited outside while his boss took the flashlight to check the circuit breaker.

The Steamship Authority terminal immediately switched to the generator when the power went down. Behind the counter, Jean Rodday had been fielding phone calls from West Tisbury and Edgartown. "Everyone wants to know what happened. But I do boats," she said. "People aren't going to be happy about this, with the game."

At 7:10 Vineyard Haven resident Maria Mitro waited for a table at Offshore Ale. She had made reservations at Zephrus in Tisbury, but it had also closed for the evening. She tried Ocean View and Seasons, but both were too crowded.

Edgartown police chief Paul Condlin said no emergency calls came in during the blackout, but several people did phone in to ask if the power would be back before the Red Sox game.

"There would have been riots in downtown Edgartown if the power had still been down at eight o'clock," he said.

(For the record, New York won 6-5 in 11 innings.)