Outage disables signals, backs up traffic

Traffic was backed up for miles throughout Carson City on Wednesday after a power outage knocked out traffic lights for longer than an hour.

The outage took lights at most major intersections out of commission, but the power came back on before city workers could set up temporary stop signs, and the signals automatically resumed operation.

After about an hour, backups cleared without any reported accidents, a dispatcher said. Carson City deputies and two Nevada Highway Patrol units provided temporary relief at several intersections.

"It was just the routine traffic issues," said Carson City Chief Deputy Scott Burau. "We mobilized all the uniformed officers and detectives, but that isn't enough to cover all the intersections."

Traffic caused problems for Lee and Joan Richter, owners of Red Bank Gardens in Red Bluff, Calif. They said it took them 27 minutes to get from the Arco at the north end of town to the Arco at Bath Street. They were taking produce to the farmers market at the Pony Express Pavilion.

"It was pretty frustrating for me because I was just about out of gas," Lee Richter said.

They were more worried about finding a service station than being stuck in traffic.

"We were coming in on fumes," Joan Richter said while filling up at the Arco station on Bath. Getting gasoline "was our main concern."

When the sheriff's department first was told the outage was expected to last several hours, it called on the Carson street department to go out to the intersections with mobile stop signs.

"It cleared up before we could really get out," Burau said.

Several Highway Patrol units were out of the area undergoing training so the agency was not able to make a big impact on traffic flow.

When the power returned, signals reset and normal traffic flow resumed.

Larry Borges of Carson City was also a victim of the backup. He said it took him about twice as long as usual to get from Graves Lane to Bath Street. He estimated his drive at 20 to 25 minutes.

"I'm retired, so it's not too bad," Borges joked.

The only stoplights that worked during the power outage were on Carson Street between Long and Fifth streets, said John Flansberg, Carson City's street operations manager.

Flansberg was on Fifth Street heading east through Stewart, Roop and Saliman during the outage.

"I was pleased to see everybody using the flashing red lights as four-way stops," he said.

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