Wind knocks out power for thousands

Power restored to homes, businesses around 2 p.m.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – More than 23,000 Clay Electric customers lost power Tuesday after high winds caused damage to power lines and several transformers blew.

The outage stretched from Orange Park through Green Cove Springs to the Putnam County line.

A transformer also blew in the Lake Asbury area.

At Clay Electric's Brickyard substation in Orange Park, an explosion in one of the circuit switchers left pieces of it everywhere. Workers were at the substation throughout the day and will be through the night trying to make repairs.

Clay Electric says that damage was caused by power lines slapping together in nearly 40-mph winds.

The utility said the explosion triggered breakers on some Florida Power & Light circuits, causing people in other areas to lose power as well.

"We do everything we can to maintain our system," Clay Electric spokesman Wayne Mattox said. "Occasionally something unusual will happen, and we tried to get them back on as fast as possible."

Once the problem was found, Clay Electric began working to get customers switched to another circuit. Most had their power back on by about 2 p.m., including businesses that had to turn customers away because they couldn't make transactions. 

The owner of one of those business, Yum, a Southern market, said she had cakes in the oven when power went out.

"We sat and waited. The ovens kept heat. I left the cakes and everything in the oven. I washed some dishes in the dark, but other than that what else do you do? You just sit and wait," Yvette Musgrove said. "I've been extremely busy since the power's back on, and I think a lot of people were coming from other businesses. Walmart wouldn't let folks in down the street, so they were coming in here, and there's not a lot I can do for them either."

Clay Electric said that despite the low temperatures expected Tuesday night that will likely result in more people on fewer circuits using power, the utility doesn't anticipate any additional problems.

Musgrove said she will be working late Tuesday trying to play catch-up for the hours of work she couldn't do earlier in the day. 

The National Weather Service also had reports of minor structure damage near Camp Blanding.