About 12,500 affected by two Helena-area outages

About 12,500 affected by two Helena-area outages

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Two separate power outages affected about 12,500 customers in the Helena area Thursday afternoon, darkening traffic signals and public buildings and delaying a women's basketball game being attended by 19 busloads of elementary school students.

Beginning at 11:48 a.m., the first outage affected about 12,000 customers from Helena to East Helena. Power was restored to some of them within about 30 minutes and the rest by 1:42 p.m.

"There has been a transmission issue that has caused a widespread outage in the Helena area," NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Jo Dee Black said. 

The cause of the outage has yet to be determined. 

"The priority is to get power restored right away, and then they'll do an assessment and make repairs that are necessary," Black said.

The outage affected traffic signals on many of Helena's busiest streets, including Euclid, Prospect and Montana avenues, and some Helena-area businesses closed their doors until electricity was restored.

The loss of power delayed tip-off for a scheduled noon women's basketball game between Carroll College and the College of Idaho. A loud cheer came from about 2,200 elementary school students attending the "field trip game" when the power was restored.

The lights went out in the Lewis and Clark Public Library soon after children's story time ended, and staffers escorted about 30 people out as a safety precaution, library public services manager Lisa Skelton said.

"We wrote down what books they took," she said.  

A second outage affected an estimated 500 customers from 3:36 to 3:44 p.m. while crews were out trimming trees, Black said. 

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