City News

MG&E station fires leave thousands without power before heatwave

Fires at two MG&E substations resulted in major traffic delays and significant power outages in downtown Madison.

Image By: Samantha Nesovanovic

After fires broke out at two MG&E stations in downtown Madison, the isthmus faces a significant power outage on the hottest day of the year so far.

An explosion at the 722 E. Main Street substation occurred around 7:30 a.m., sending dark plumes of smoke above the city’s skyline. A subsequent fire sparked at the Park Street substation. Students were alerted to the situation by a WiscAlert sent at 8:11 a.m., urging them to “evacuate immediately. Avoid the area.”

By 9:04 a.m., the campus substation fire was put out, and students resumed their daily routines without major power interruptions. The fire at the main station was also extinguished around this time, but left a more significant impact in its wake.

Two-block-wide roadblocks created major traffic delays along East Washington Avenue, Blount Street and Main Street, among others in the area. 

In addition to delays in commutes, power outages were reported across the entire area, from the near west side of the Capitol and as far east as Milwaukee Street and Fordem Avenue.

According to their website, MG&E estimates over 11,000 people are without power, and they do not know when they will be able to restore electricity to these residents. Residents can view an updated map here.

In a tweet, MG&E stated “At this time, we believe the fire was due to a mechanical issue.”

Some residents reacted to the outage with frustration, especially business owners who may not be able to open their stores or offices today without electricity and air conditioning. Others attempted to make light of the situation – one man shouted “Willy Street is Mad Max rules now!” as he biked around the area, eliciting laughs from fellow pedestrians.

The heat wave, however, poses a major concern in the midst of the blackout.

An excessive heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service for all of southwestern Wisconsin. Meteorologists predict temperatures will rise to the mid-90s, and heat indexes send the estimated temperature soaring above 100 degrees.

With the heat and without power, people living in downtown Madison may be at a heightened risk for heat-related illnesses, especially those receiving healthcare and living in assisted facilities.

Residents are urged to limit their time outside, stay hydrated and wear light clothing to limit the effects of the heat. The Kohl Center will also serve as a cooling center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for those looking to escape the high temperatures.

No injuries have been reported. This is a developing story.

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