Saying he was “familiar with praying in this space,” the Rev. Justin Monaghan, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, gave the blessing Wednesday morning as Empire District Electric Co. dedicated its rebuilt substation near 26th Street and Moffet Avenue.
The substation was “little more than a heap of metal and mangled wire” after the May 22, 2011, tornado, noted Martin Penning, vice president of commercial operations for the Joplin-based utility. The EF-5 tornado was so powerful that it moved a transformer that weighed 126,000 pounds.
“We believe the previous transformer had been scooted on its pad four to five inches,” he said.
Two new transformers, each of similar weight, were brought in this summer. They convert power from the 69,000-volt transmission line to 12,000 volts for distribution lines used by residences and businesses in the area.
Penning said it is important to bring the substation on line as the area rebuilds. City figures indicate that more than 75 percent of the residences destroyed in the storm have been rebuilt or are under construction.
Empire officials have said the substation was the last major component of the company’s rebuilding stemming from the tornado.
The wrecked substation was part of an estimated $20 million to $30 million in damages to Empire’s infrastructure. Six substations were damaged, as were 4,000 poles, 1,000 smaller transformers and 100 miles of electric line. Penning put the cost of rebuilding the destroyed substation at about $7 million.
The site for the substation increased after the storm, taking in part of the property that previously belonged to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, its elementary school and parish center, all of which also were destroyed in the storm. The church has announced plans to rebuild near 32nd Street and Central City Road.
Empire paved and finished off a parking lot adjacent to the large iron cross that has become one of the iconic symbols for many after the storm.
SUBSTATION 59 at 26th Street and Moffet Avenue, originally constructed in 1927, is one of about 175 substations owned by Empire District Electric Co.