First Time TranStar Power Outage

Last week's electrical storm led to a first. TranStar, Houston's transportation and emergency management center, went dark. There was some concern, but County Judge Ed Emmett is confident that it won't happen again. Pat Hernandez has more.

When TranStar initially lost power following the storm, it went on generator backup. Dinah Massey is public information officer at TranStar.

“Last year, we bought a new generator to expand our capability for our electrical systems and keeping them running. We also bought what’s called a ‘day tank,’ and a pump, and the pump will send fuel through this day tank, to keep things running while we service the big generators. Well, the pump failed.”

Massey says they had enough fuel in the day tank to continue operations for a short while before it switched to battery power. But batteries eventually lose their charge. For the first time since it was built in 1996, TranStar was without power.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is head of the Office of Emergency Management. He says after Hurricane Ike, TranStar added another generator, which was supposed to be operated by gravity feed to pump fuel, like the other generator. 

“But it turned out when they did that, they put a mechanical pump in the day tank, so it was no longer just purely gravity feed. Gravity feed from the main tank went to the day tank, and the mechanical pump went to the generators. Well, the mechanical pump failed.”

Emmett says during the upgrade following Hurricane Ike, a mechanical device was installed, which could have resulted in failure.

“Now everybody knows, you don’t want to put anything in that runs the risk of failing. And so, that’s now been taken out, and we’re back with two generators instead of one. So, we’re actually in better shape that we were during Hurricane Ike. But again, it’s good that it happened when it did, as opposed to during a hurricane.”

TranStar is a partnership between Houston, Harris County, METRO, and the Texas Department of Transportation. It has evolved into the primary resource from which multiple state, county, and local agencies respond to incidents and weather related emergencies. In short, it is the nerve center for the city and county to respond to catastrophe.

TranStar’s Dinah Massey says because of the brief power failure, they’re better prepared and ready to move forward.

“We are going to be here for every event that occurs, from hurricanes to plant explosions, and we are in operation and will continue to be so.”

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