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BLOOMINGTON — It wasn’t exactly business as usual at Fox & Hounds Hair Studio and Day Spa in downtown Bloomington when the power went out Thursday afternoon, but that didn’t stop hairstylists from doing their job.

“We decided to all pull together as a team,” said co-owner Denise Geske. “Everyone who wasn’t cutting helped out by getting their cellphones out and using the flashlight on a customer so at least one of us could continue working.”

The power outage lasted only about 30 minutes for most people, but it was felt at homes, businesses and offices across the Twin Cities and in El Paso and other nearby towns.

About 8,600 Ameren customers and about 2,700 Corn Belt Energy co-op members lost power, utility officials said, and most service was restored by 2 p.m. or soon after. Blown fuses, possibly caused by a bird, were blamed.

Geske, who has been with the salon on the second floor of 200 W. Monroe St. for 22 years, said she remembers only one other similar incident.

“So, we weren’t prepared, but it’s certainly entertaining and we are still making people beautiful,” she said.

Bright sunshine through windows at Fox & Hounds let some workers go on as if it were a normal day, but the day wasn't quite normal for people unlucky enough to be in elevators elsewhere when the outage hit. 

The Bloomington Fire Department was called to rescue people trapped in elevators at Wood Hill Towers, Phoenix Towers, the Downtowner, Bloomington Public Library and the McLean County Museum of History, said Deputy Chief of Operations Eric West, but power was restored in some cases before firefighters arrived. 

No one was injured, he said.

At the McLean County Law and Justice Center, Sheriff Jon Sandage said backup generators powered the jail and sheriff’s department but the building's entrance was closed until screening equipment was running again. A mail delivery person in the building was stuck for a time in an elevator, the state's attorney's office said.

A couple of blocks away, customers of Elroy's tavern, 102 W. Washington St., went outside, hoping the outage would be short.

“We were eating and then it went dark,” said Sam Boyer of Bloomington. “I’m not sure what the rules are when something like that happens and apparently nobody else did either. Eventually, we just decided to step out outside.”

For others, it was time to get some exercise.

“I came downtown to grab a bite to eat and just hit some downtown shops,” said Mary Walsh of Normal. “Nobody is open right now (during the outage) and so I just decided to walk around the perimeter" of the museum.

"It’s a weird scene though, because all of the downtown employees are outside and so many of them have a weird half-smile, half-concerned look on their face," she said. "It’s almost kind of funny.”

Ameren officials did not have locations of where the two fuses blew, but Randall Stein, executive director of the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District, said two such fuses blew on a line at the waste water treatment plant on West Oakland Avenue in Bloomington.

He said a bird apparently caused the failure.

Government offices in downtown Bloomington were affected, officials said. At Illinois State University, a few administrative buildings lost power but no residence halls were affected. 

Both Twin City hospitals and State Farm's buildings in east Bloomington were not affected, however.

Downtown, Bill Smithson of Bloomington couldn’t understand why the doors to the Subway sandwich shop at 109 W. Jefferson St. were closed. Not knowing the power was out, he approached, found the door locked, looked in and saw nobody.

“Well, that’s strange,” Smithson said when informed the power was out. “I’ve got a coupon for a free cookie.”

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

Paul Swiech, Maria Nagle and Lenore Sobota contributed to this report.


Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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