NYC had a blackout this weekend – 42 years to the day of the 1977 great blackout. An “equipment failure at one of its [ConEd] substations,” was the cause, said the utility. (Source) The ConEd website said, “…a significant electrical transmission disturbance occurred at 6:47 p.m. [Saturday] … leading to the loss of service to approximately 72,000 customers. We restored power to all affected areas shortly before midnight.”

In December ECC asked, “When do outages happen? Answer: All the time, but for various reasons.”

Carolinians hear a lot about power outages because of hurricanes, and it is that season now – think of Hurricane/storm Barry that just made landfall along the Gulf Coast. Significant outages can happen in violent weather.

What about outages other than in bad weather? Here are some reasons outages happen.

Vehicle accidents or sometimes construction equipment can break utility poles, down power lines or cause other equipment damage.

Power poles, trees, right-of-way

Trees cause outages when they interfere with power lines. Utilities have expert tree trimmers who scope out potential problems and get to trees before they cause a problem in their right-of-way.  

Wildlife can cause outages, often birds, squirrels or snakes looking for a hideout. “Many of these creatures are attracted to the humming warmth of electrical equipment, while snakes slither into substations looking for food, often bird’s nests,” says a Duke Energy Illumination story.

Equipment that gives out can cause outages. Like all utensils we have in our lives – phones, microwaves, cars – they only last so long. Predicting a failure is tough.

Image from Dominion outage web page – July 14, 2019

Need to know where outages are happening? There are Carolina outage maps available:

  • South Carolina here.
  • North Carolina here.
  • Duke Energy here.
  • Dominion (former SCE&G) here.
  • SC Coops here.
  • NC Coops here.

Outages happen and for diverse reasons. In 2017 there were almost 37 million people affected by more than 3,500 reported outages (source). Be prepared.