If the number of power outages tallied over the first two months of the year is any indication, 2017 looks to be brutal for blackouts. Indeed, Eaton tracked 638 outages throughout January and February alone, affecting more than 2.5 million people across the United States for a collective duration of nearly 20 days.
Mother Nature bestowed the brunt of the damage, with 248 storm-induced blackouts occurring coast to coast. Among the largest was a weather-related whopper that struck Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 19, when strong winds toppled trees and utility lines, leaving 140,000 customers in the dark. Meanwhile, on Feb. 6 in Seattle, dozens of schools were closed or delayed and 100,000 customers left without power after heavy snow downed trees and lines. A day later, more than 26,000 customers remained without power.
Equipment problems were attributed to sparking another 134 outages, including a fault in a circuit that shut off the power supply to 27,000 El Paso customers for two full days in mid-January.
A further 80 cuts resulted from vehicle collisions, at least one of which was apparently caused by excessive coughing. A man told authorities that a coughing fit forced him to crash into a Michigan utility pole, which knocked power out to more than 1,300 DP&L customers on Feb. 19. In another incident, a tractor-trailer driver was charged with DUI after hitting two fire hydrants and a transformer on Jan. 31, causing a chain-reaction crash that started a fire and left 50 homes without power in Chelsea, Mass. Not to be outdone, a 15-year-old girl was accused of leading Durham, N.C., deputies on a Feb. 23 chase that ended in a serious wreck and a damaged power pole. A deputy tried to pull the teenager over because he thought she was impaired, but she refused to stop and ultimately crashed the car.
Of the 638 outages tallied in January and February, another 21 events were planned in advance, while 14 were sparked by animal activity, including curious squirrels, errant birds, and rambunctious rodents. A specific cause was not available for the remainder of the 141 blackouts.
Interested in more? Check out the new Blackout Tracker Annual Report for more interesting facts including state-by-state outage statistics.
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