Officials say a vandal trying to steal copper wire risked being electrocuted by 69,000 volts of electricity and raided an active power substation in southwest Iowa on Monday night.

About 1,100 Clarinda area residents lost power about 11 p.m. and MidAmerican Energy spokesman Geoff  Greenwood says a utility crew quickly identified the cause of the outage. “Someone had cut a hole in the fence and as they got inside the substation, they saw a pile of copper wire that had been cut,” Greenwood says. “That was on the ground and it appears that someone had cut wire and made a pretty quick exit.”

Greenwood says repairs to the damaged substation took a few hours to complete. “Our crew got the replacement materials, wires and cables they needed to make those repairs, but first they had to turn off that substation to make sure they could do their job safely,” Greenwood says. “Once they were able to replace those materials, they energized that circuit and restored those customers.”

Greenwood says vandals have tried to take copper wire from MidAmerican substations in the past, and it’s a potentially deadly proposition. “I can’t emphasize enough how much risk you are putting yourself into when you are messing around with 69,000 volts of electricity,” Greenwood says. “It’s just a dangerous, dangerous idea to break into an active substation that is energized.”

Greenwood says they’ve seen similar acts at substations in Hastings, Glenwood, and twice in Emerson. According to the Page County Sheriff’s Office, a suspect was arrested Tuesday in connection with the incident.

(By Ethan Hewett, KMA, Shenandoah)