Power now restored to Back Bay residents after early morning outage

The power outage in Back Bay was due to a problem at the Scotia Street substation.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
The power outage in Back Bay was due to a problem at the Scotia Street substation. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Power has been restored to Boston’s Back Bay after a problem with a cable at a substation left nearly 12,000 without power early this morning, according to NStar.

Officials said the last building to have its power restored was Trinity Place, a condominium building at Copley Square. One resident of Trinity Place said her power came back on at 12:05 p.m.

“We didn’t have too much communication,” said Diane Kinch-Corry, who lives on the seventh floor of 1 Huntington Ave. “I was sort of in the dark, so to speak, for a little while.”

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A faulty cable at the Scotia Street substation, the same substation that was at the center of the March 2012 Back Bay blackout, malfunctioned early this morning, cutting power to thousands, NStar officials said.

In order to get the system back to normal operations, Durand said, NStar will shut down power after midnight for a few hours to the customers affected by this morning’s outage while crews fix the underlying problem at the substation.

“For some period of time, all customers that were affected this morning will be affected by the planned outage overnight,” Durand said. “The length of the planned outage will vary depending on where the customer is located and we’re taking steps to notify them directly by phone about tonight’s outage.”

The troublesome cable is expected to be completely repaired by 5 a.m. Monday, Durand said.

Sunday morning traffic was affected by the outage, but was back to normal by afternoon.

At about 9 a.m., State Police shut down the Massachusetts Turnpike around the Prudential tunnel in both directions due to a “lighting and ventilation issue” caused by the outage, according to a State Police statement. The tunnel was reopened around 11:30 a.m.

Traffic was also diverted away from Charlesgate going east and west, as well as the Bowker Overpass at Boylston Street, State Police said.

As of 2:30 p.m. traffic on the Pike was moving smoothly eastbound but slightly slower heading west, according to traffic data provided by SigAlert, Boston.com’s traffic information service. Traffic on Storrow Drive was flowing normally in both directions, according to SigAlert.

At about 3:15 a.m., a cable that connects a transformer at the Scotia Street facility to the electrical grid malfunctioned and cut power to about 12,000 customers between the Charles River and Columbus Avenue, and between Copley Square and the Fenway neighborhood, Durand said.

“We can see [the problem], fix it, [and] take corrective action relatively quickly,” NStar President Craig Hallstrom said at the scene this morning.

Durand said around 8,000 of the affected customers had power back by about 9 a.m. and that after 10 a.m. only a handful of customers remained without electricity.

In March 2012 a break in the connection between a power line and a transformer at the Scotia Street substation caused a cooling agent inside the line to spew onto an electrified area, igniting a smoky fire and causing a two-day blackout in one of the city’s busiest residential and commercial neighborhoods.

Since the March 2012 outage, NStar has been working to upgrade the Scotia Street facility. One of the two transformers at the substation was out for upgrades this morning and if both had been in place, “it would have been a non-event. I don’t know why it failed, but [we’re] focusing on restoration,” Hallstrom said of today’s problem.

This morning’s outage delayed the start of business for many restaurants and coffee shops in the bustling Back Bay who are normally busy serving brunch on Sundays.

Miriam Slimi, manager of The Creperie on Newbury, said that though the kitchen was back to normal by 11 a.m. the power outage caused a server to go down on their computers, making it impossible for them to process credit card purchases.

“It has been inconvenient, we’re wasting so much time, you know?” she said.

As kitchens waited to fire up their grills, coffee makers, and toasters, Pavement Coffeehouse on Newbury Street, which normally opens at 8 a.m. on weekends, was delayed an hour.

“There’s been a line out the door pretty much constantly,” Pavement employee Marian O’Brien said. “We’re just trying to keep up brewing coffee.”

Though many restaurants had power back by around 9 a.m., one ice cream shop manager said she initially feared the worst for her product.

“I had a mini heart attack and thought we’d have to get dry ice for the freezers,” said Devin Handley, manager of the Newbury Street Ben and Jerry’s. “We just kept our fridges closed and luckily things were back to normal around 9:30 a.m. The ice cream is just fine.”