SOUTH BEND A fire underground in a man hole caused serious damage to power circuits Thursday night.
The fire, at Washington and Lafayette, knocked out power to more than 800 I&M customers in downtown South Bend. Power is expected to be restored by noon on Sunday, according to the mayor's office.
As of Friday afternoon, the damaged wire was removed and crews began replacing it with new cable. There will be several manholes downtown that will need to be accessed by I&M crews on Saturday and Sunday.
City officials ask drivers to be cautious around workers.
I&M lists the currently affected area as follows:
That area includes South Bend Memorial Hospital, which is running on generator power. Treatment for patients at the hospital has not been interrupted, but ambulances are being diverted to other hospitals.
People who come to the ER will still be treated. Family and friends are still welcome to visit loved ones in the hospital.
The four physician clinics - Skyway, Navarre, Memorial Medical Plaza and Centennial - are all without power and will be closed Friday. Staff will contact patients to reschedule appointments.
Power crews from Fort Wayne and Columbus, Ohio will be coming to South Bend to help repair the damage. I&M said some of its workers helped restore power to Manhattan after Superstorm Sandy.
The power outage means traffic signals are out in the downtown area. Police have put stop signs and other traffic control devices in place. They will also be patrolling the intersections to conduct traffic. Police advice avoiding the downtown area if possible, especially during rush hour. There will be delays.
To help improve safety in the nighttime hours, the city put in place temporary lights to illuminate some 39 intersections throughout the downtown.
The power outages come at a busy time for South Bend. Thousands of people are in town for Notre Dame's graduation. Downtown restaurants are reportedly working together on a plan to remain open through the weekend, which is one of their busiest. A refrigerated truck is parked behind the South Bend Chocolate Factory, but it is not clear at this point who is using it.
Deputy Mayor Mark Neal issued the following statement about the power outage:
"We expect the downtown power outage to last for much of the weekend. Police and fire crews will be working vigilantly to maintain public safety during this time. There is never a good time for something like this to happen, and with so many people visiting this weekend for Notre Dame and St. Mary's graduations, the inconvenience and economic impact will be especially unfortunate. City officials will coordinate with the County and I&M to expedite the restoration of power and mitigate the effects on residents, visitors, and businesses as much as possible."
Fortunately, it doesn't affect the police and fire departments, and service to 311 was restored. According to South Bend police chief, Ron Teachman, there have been zero accidents or safety incidents since the power went out Thursday night.
More than 250 downtown residents are affected by outage. The Kroc center will be available for them to take showers.