Power outage disturbs area downtown

Andrew Messamore

Power was restored to downtown by 8:15 a.m. Sunday after a cascading transformer failure caused Sixth Street and the surrounding area to lose power for 12 hours Saturday night.

The blackout started when underground power lines overloaded after a transformer near 10th Street and Congress Avenue failed and a transformer near Ninth Street and Congress Avenue caught on fire, according to a statement by
Austin Energy.

An area from Congress Avenue to Red River Street and 12th Street to 5th Street was affected by about 8:30 p.m., and grew larger by 11:30 p.m. By 2:00 a.m. All of the businesses on Sixth Street had lost power and people were filling the streets, said co-owner of B. D. Riley’s Irish Pub Steve Basile.

“Two a.m. looked like a zombie apocalypse, a lot of people going out into the streets, and there was just not another light to be seen,” Basile said. “The outage was very spotty. When it started, the north side of Sixth between Brazos and San Jacinto was completely affected, and by midnight, it was dark everywhere. It clearly rolled like a wave and spread farther along.”

Basile said the people at his pub did not panic when the power went out, and “chilled and had another round” while using their cell phones as flashlights to light tables and order drinks.

“The band lost power because their amps went out, but the singer knew how to play fiddle, so they played a few songs acoustically and people stayed,” Basile said.

Kimberly Beckham, general manager at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, said theatre-goers were determined to make the best of the blackout.

“We were at the tail-end of our Master Pancake show when the power went out,” Beckham said. “They are local guys that play movies and then lampoon them for your enjoyment, and what was actually very cool is that they decided to act out the rest of the movie with the help of audience members who lit the stage with their cell phones. Fortunately, we were really prepared. I just hope that everyone else on Sixth Street was safe.”