Substations around the country are getting attention as possible sites for vandalism or worse. This TVA substation is on Spring Creek Drive near Guntersville High School.
Attack on substation
worries TVA, others
A midnight attack by snipers on an electric substation in California has put TVA and other utilities across the country on high alert.
It took nearly a month to get the California facility back into normal operations.
TVA provides power to 10 million people in 9 states, including here.
A TVA spokesman, Jim Hopson, said the agency is trying to educate police in its area about the importance of substations, pointing out to them how the facilities look when things are normal.
“If they know what’s normal, they’re better able to spot irregularities,” Mr. Hopson said.
UTILITIES are vandalized often. But the California incident raised concerns to a new level.
Last April 18, someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy San Jose freeway and cut telephone cables about 1:00 a.m.
Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electric substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, “they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night,” according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which has had several articles on the substation problem.
“TO AVOID a blackout, electric-grid officials rerouted power around the site and asked power plants in Silicon Valley to produce more electricity.
“But it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the substation back to life,” the newspaper report said.
One former federal regulator called it a terrorist act “that if it were widely replicated across the country could take down the U.S. electric grid and black out much of the country,” the newspaper said.
An FBI spokesman in San Francisco told the newspaper there that the agency doesn’t believe the attack was the work of a terrorist organization. But they aren’t ruling it out, either.
A FORMER CIA director, James Woolsey, said the electric-system vulnerabilities “are a hidden problem no one wants to think about.”
“Mr. Woolsey noted that other essential systems – water, transportation, public health, law enforcement and energy – all need electricity if they are to function.
“Transmission substations are critical links in the electric grid that is connected across the country.
“They make it possible for electricity to move long distances, and serve as hubs for intersecting power lines,” the Journal article said.
THE TRANSMISSION substation that was attacked belongs to Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves the San Francisco area, among others.
Key times in the attack last April included:
12:58 a.m. – Attackers cut telephone cables.
1:31 a.m. – Attackers open fire on substation.
1:41 a.m. – First 911 call from power plant operator.
1:45 a.m. – Transformers all over the substation start crashing.
1:50 a.m. – Attack ends and gunmen leave.
1:51 a.m. – Police arrive but can’t enter the locked substation.
3:15 a.m. – Utility electrician arrives.