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The Biggest (and Most Bizarre) Outages of the Year


2/7/2017

From Mother Nature to mountain lions, temperamental teens to distracted drivers, there was no shortage of circumstances contributing to power failures throughout 2016. Nor was there a scarcity of downtime events. In all, Eaton’s Blackout Tracker compiled 3,879 power outages last year, which affected nearly 18 million people for a total of 130 days — that’s more than one-third of the entire year!

Here, we round up some of the most significant — and outrageous — outages of 2016: 

  1. Gone with the wind — Hurricane Matthew blasted the southeastern United States in early October, leaving more than 1 million without power in Florida, as well as more than 800,000 across the Carolinas, 300,000 in Georgia, and 392,000 in Virginia. The Category 1 storm was fueled by 75 mph winds. 

  2. Blackout blaze — An April 21 blaze led to a large-scale outage in Brunswick County, N.C., leaving some 508,000 customers in the dark. The utility said the flames destroyed a transmission that affected the power supply to several substations. 

  3. Snowed under — A Category 4 blizzard that began on Jan. 22 dumped heavy snow from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England, knocking out power to 200,000 customers, some for days. It ranked fourth among the most powerful winter storms to impact the Northeast U.S. since 1950.

  4. Horrible Hermine — Sweeping across Georgia and Florida on Sept. 2, Hurricane Hermine left more than 275,000 outages in her wake. Heavy rain and gusty winds that continued in the aftermath also contributed to more downed trees and a subsequent spate of power outages. (Related video: Listen to how this Eaton customer handled the outages of Hurricane Hermine.) 

  5. Teenage angst— Ever wonder why teenage driver insurance premiums are so high? The 28 Papillion, Neb., residents who lost power for a full week understand all too well. It took 7 days to repair and replace damaged equipment in their apartment building after a teen crashed into the complex. Several residents were displaced from their homes due to the incident, in which the culprit had no insurance — or even a license!

If you think those outages were bad, consider some of the year’s most unusual blackouts:

  1. DWC (driving while coughing) — A driver had a coughing attack then lost control of his car in Tulsa on July 4, hitting a light pole and knocking out power to 136 customers. 

  2. DWA (driving while arguing) — Power was knocked out for 1,700 people in Lakewood, Colo., August 4 after a fatal accident damaged power poles. When police arrived on the scene, they found no vehicle, yet a man was lying in a lane of traffic. Police later tracked down the man’s sister-in-law, who told authorities they had been arguing while driving and he jumped from the moving vehicle. She indicated that she was attempting to control the vehicle when she struck the power poles. Her brother-in-law later died of his injuries.

  3. Sounds a little fishy — A Seattle utility revealed that a bird (possibly an eagle) dropped a fish (possibly a salmon) onto power lines Dec. 13, cutting electricity to 172 customers for 2 hours. Strangely, the utility also chose to share the fate of the fish (spoiler alert: it didn't make it!).

  4. King of the power pole — On April 6, tribal officials in Polson, Mt., intentionally cut electricity to allow tribal game wardens and biologists to tranquilize a mountain lion that was perched at the top of a power pole. Once sedated, the cat tumbled to the ground, but reportedly was not injured in the fall.

  5. RIP, Yogi — A lineman investigating a July 1 transformer outage in Castle Rock, Colo., found a dead bear below the power pole. The animal was believed to have been electrocuted after climbing the pole and grabbing the wire.

More From 2/7/2017 on FacilitiesNet