August 24, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Ninety-three years ago La Grande already was so dependent on electricity that a five and one-half hour power outage was major news.

The outage hit La Grande at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 21, 1909.

Light & Power Famine read a banner headline in the Jan. 21, 1909, edition of The Observer.

The power outage was caused by a break on a transmission line between Union and Rock Creek near Haines. The transmission line had recently been constructed by the G.R.E. Company.

The outage threw ...electrically propelled enterprises into confusion today The Observer reported.

Crews spent hours looking for the transmission line break before finding it at Telocaset at 3 p.m. on Jan. 21. Power was restored in La Grande at 3:30 p.m.

The power outage caused problems at The Observer. The newspaper had to use a hand composition system to supplement the copy that had already been set up on Linotype at the time of the break.

La Grande had had electricity since at least the early 1900s. Most towns in Union and Wallowa counties had electricity at least by 1910, said La Grande historian Jack Evans. The towns received their power from generators powered by steam or water. Many rural farms in Northeast Oregon, however, did not receive electricity until after World War II.