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West Allis, Greenfield hit hard by Monday storm

July 1, 2014

Monday night's violent thunder storms knocked power out at the West Allis Public Library on one of its busiest nights and darkened traffic signals and street lights in both West Allis and Greenfield.

Between 50 and 75 patrons were in the library when it went dark about 6:15 p.m., Michael Koszalka, library director, estimated. There was still some dim light from utility lights, lights on the library's fire alarms and natural light. However, the library lights would eventually run out of power and go dark.

While patrons were already drifting toward the driving rain in the library parking lot, library officials waited 10 minutes to see if the lights would come back on.

When they couldn't get through to We Energies to get some idea how long it might take to get power back, officials decided to close early.

"At 6:45 we called it," Koszalka said.

Power at the library would not be restored for seven hours, judging by the electric clocks that had stopped, he said.

Closing is something the library almost never does, he said. The last time was in February 2012 during a huge snowstorm that kept not only patrons but staff struggling to get out, he said.

It closed early another time in the 1990s when there was a gas leak out front, Koszalka said.

On Monday night, all was orderly inside the library, he said.

"People understood the situation," Koszalka said. "Our patrons are very resilient."

A Common Council committee meeting that was to be held in the library had to be moved to City Hall because it had power.

Koszalka drove past the library at 9:30 p.m., and it was completely dark, something that never happens.

"We always keep some permanent lighting on to police can look into the building," he said.

Outside, the storm was knocking out power on the west end of Greenfield along with traffic signals and street lights, said Assistant Police Chief Paul Schlecht. Even traffic lights on busy Highway 100 went out and city crews were dispatched to put up stop signs, he said.

West Allis had all similar troubles with traffic and street lights out and 12 trees going down.

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