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FARMINGTON  – A power outage cut off electricity to most of south Farmington for about 35 minutes this morning disabling traffic lights and leaving businesses momentarily dark.

Rodney Romero, director of the Farmington Electric Utility System, said the outage was triggered around 9:30 a.m. by an equipment malfunction. He said crews were switching electrical loads between the Bluff View and Animas substations, which accidentally tripped a safety feature in the protective relay system.

The outage affected about 1,000 customers in south Farmington, including the San Juan Regional Medical center.

"That was the biggest thing we were worried about," Romero said.

Larry Smith, the hospital's director of support services, said the facility has backup generators, however, and was able to continue normal operations. He said typically during outages the hospital receives at least partial power from the city, but this time the facility was completely reliant on its emergency sources.

"That's a very rare occurrence," Smith said. "It's was a true test for us."

The outage also cut of power to traffic lights along main artery's downtown. Farmington Police Department spokeswoman Georgette Allen said there were no reports of accidents, however. She said drivers are advised to approach intersections with traffic lights as a four-way stop during power outages.

Romero said the outage stretched from the start of the Bisti Highway eastward to the end of San Juan Boulevard. He said that fortunately the majority of affected areas were not residential. Although the incident was widespread, Romero said crews worked quickly to manually switch over individual circuits and restore services. He said the utility will replace or fix the sensors that sparked the outage.

"It's unfortunate and an inconvenience," he said. "But I was pretty proud of the way the guys responded."

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606. 

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