BLOOMINGTON — A traffic accident late Wednesday afternoon knocked down utility lines along Veterans Parkway, blocking traffic and cutting power to numerous businesses and thousands of residents.
A driver struck a power pole shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday, cutting off traffic to both sides of Veterans from Empire Street to GE Road for almost four hours, Bloomington police said. The driver, Marcell Johnson, 19, of 2606 Hall Court, Bloomington, wasn't hurt, police said.
The accident diverted rush-hour traffic to nearby neighborhood streets and alternate routes, such as Hershey and Airport roads.
There were scattered fender-bender accidents because of all the stop-and-go traffic at intersections where traffic lights were off, police Lt. Pete Avery said.
?~Not Bloomington's traffic'
"Traffic is terrible. It's a mess," motorist Gail Kirkwood said about 4:45 p.m. She was at her home near downtown Bloomington after picking up her son at Central Catholic High School on Airport Road.
"I'm sitting there thinking, ?~This is not Bloomington's traffic,'" said Kirkwood, whose family moved to the Twin Cities from Slidell, La., after Hurricane Katrina this summer.
The power outage initially affected 2,200 Ameren customers, many of them businesses in the heavily commercial area on Veterans, utility spokeswoman Natalie Hemmer said.
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Crews working in frigid conditions pared that number to about 1,000 after about 20 minutes of repairs by rerouting service.
Another 450 got their lights back on sometime from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., she said. The remaining 750 had their power again by about 7:30 p.m.
Johnson's car struck a utility pole on Holiday Drive south of the Veterans Parkway and Clearwater Avenue intersection, police said. The pole carried wires that crossed Veterans.
The driver told police he was northbound on Holiday Drive and skidded on snow and hit the pole while trying to make a U turn.
He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol-zero tolerance, Bloomington police said. Drivers younger than 21 years old can face this charge if they have any amount of alcohol in their system.
Ameren repair crews were expected to close Veterans for a time overnight to make permanent repairs, Hemmer said.
"Right now, we have temporary repairs in place," she said Wednesday evening.
Bloomington police used so many emergency road flares that Assistant Chief Ed Moser ended up going to two west-side stores and buy all the flares they had. He ended up with 42.
The Pantagraph/B MOSHER
A vehicle rests against an electric pole on Holiday Drive as utility workers move around the accident scene Wednesday night near Veterans Parkway in Bloomington. The accident caused part of Veterans to close and left businesses in the area without power.