From a utility-mandated cut in the midst of a heat wave, to aging infrastructure, to the unwelcome effects of El Nino, power outages were responsible for wreaking havoc in the lives of millions of electricity customers across the nation in 2015. Here, we round up some of the most devastating events:
- Gone with the wind. Nearly 20,000
households in the Spokane area were forced to endure an entire week
without heaters, lamps and TV sets after howling winds ripped apart power
lines, trees and the electrical grid on Nov. 17. More than 180,000
customers lost power at the peak of the worst windstorm in the region's
history, which packed gusts up to 70 mph that cracked trees and sent them
crashing onto cars, killing three people.
- A storm more “super” than Sandy. The East Coast was blasted by a summer storm on June 23, resulting in nearly 280,000 outages in Atlantic City Electric’s eight-county South New Jersey territory. While the figure surpassed the 220,000 left in the dark by Hurricane Sandy a few years back, the severity of outages was thankfully not the same.
- Long outage for Long Beach. The stench of smoke filled the air July 15 in downtown Long Beach, Calif., after a power outage caused an underground fire and a manhole cover to pop into the air. Emergency shelters had to be set up after electricity was out for three days. Less than two weeks later, some 30,000 people were once again left in the dark from apparently the same issue, blamed on aging infrastructure.
- Over-demand prompts utility to pull the plug. Imagine enduring a weekend of record-breaking heat in the high 90s — then having the local utility intentionally shut off your power! That was the reality for some 115,000 San Diego customers on Sept. 20, after SDG&E was ordered by state regulators to drop 150 megawatts of load in their service territory immediately. No notice was given to customers before power was shut off for several hours, forcing many businesses to close, some of whom reported thousands of dollars in losses.
- Washington grinds to a halt. It wasn’t the Democrats or Republicans, but a massive April 7 blackout that cut power to thousands across Washington D.C. and Maryland, reigniting concerns over the fragility of the power grid. Utility officials said a piece of metal broke loose from a power line at a switching station, knocking out the supply to two power stations and causing a ripple effect. From the State Department to the White House, the blackout ranged from seconds to several hours. Museums on the National Mall were evacuated, while several federal buildings shut down and classes at the University of Maryland were cancelled.
- Strangers on a train. The same summer squall that struck New Jersey on June 23 also pummeled the Philadelphia region, cutting power to 250,000 customers and stranding passengers on an Amtrak train for 4 1/2 hours — leaving them without food, water, air conditioning or restrooms.
- Substantial storm. Severe weather caused massive outages in Birmingham, Ala., on July 14, knocking out power to 115,000 customers. Crews from other states were called in to assist in the restoration effort.
- Skating on thin ice. On Nov. 28, some 110,000 Oklahoma City residents lost power after a frosty storm blasted the state. Elevated surfaces were coated with ice, leading power lines and tree limbs to sag and break.
- Blustery blackout. High winds knocked out electricity to105,000 homes and business in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Christmas Eve. In the wake of the 60 mph winds, the utility brought in out-of-state crews to help restore power.
- No love for the power supply. A Valentine’s
Day cold front that brought extreme wind conditions to Richmond, Va., was
responsible for cutting power to 103,000 customers. Peak wind gusts were
measured at over 50 mph in almost every Virginia local office.