Many parts of the country had to ride out heat waves in July — with power outages hot on their trail. In fact, of the 345 blackouts tracked throughout the month, more than one-third — 125 incidents — were deemed weather-related. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, monsoons and microbursts all shouldered some of the blame for knocking out power to a collective 1.56 million customers for a total of nearly 19 days. Here, we detail some of the most significant, scary and suspect power outages of the month:
North Carolina’s tourist-flocking Outer Banks entered August in recovery-mode following an eight-day-long blackout that shut down businesses, forced thousands to evacuate, and prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency.
The July 27 outage — which knocked out power to some 9,000 businesses and residences on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands — resulted after a construction crew damaged underground power lines while working on a new bridge. The mishap cut power to both islands, with crews having to work through the week to excavate two damaged power cables and erect a new overhead line to restore electricity.
Businesses had to close their doors, rental properties remained empty as an estimated 45,000 tourists were ordered to evacuate, and seasonal employees were left without a means of earning a paycheck. As a result, a class action lawsuit representing individuals and businesses affected was filed against the construction company responsible for the mishap, asserting that the firm was negligent when crews accidentally severed the transmission line.
Less than amused
One place you really don’t want to be during a power outage is atop an electricity-fueled amusement park ride! But that is exactly where some park patrons found themselves on July 30, when a blackout struck Sandusky, Ohio’s premier amusement park, Cedar Point. Some riders were left stranded for 30 minutes atop the Ferris wheel, while other riders had to be evacuated from the Rougarou coaster. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the widespread outage, which affected about 9,000 Erie County customers.
Thirty-two of last month’s outages were attributed to animals, ranging from birds to raccoons, and snakes to squirrels. But a utility crew investigating a July 11 outage near Lakin, Kan., were surprised to discover a bobcat atop a 35-foot utility pole. The animal apparently came into contact with a pair of electrified lines and died immediately. The line crew had to use a bucket truck to remove the dead bobcat and evaluate the electrical equipment for any further damage.
Several continents away, it was a much happier outcome for a Zambia baboon who interfered with machinery at a power station in a tourist town near Victoria Falls. Although power was knocked out to tens of thousands of people for several hours, a utility spokesman revealed that the baboon survived the electric shock and was handed over to wildlife officials for care.
Aggravated aging process
Aging infrastructure once again came under the microscope when a transformer caught fire on July 8, triggering a widespread power outage in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. The fire occurred at a receiving station, where high voltage is run through a transformer to reduce it for distribution to homes and businesses. While the transformer was part of an aging unit that had been scheduled for replacement, a utility manager acknowledged that the area’s concurrent heatwave likely contributed to the failure. The blackout, which left 140,000 customers in the dark and sent a black plume of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles, took more than 15 hours to rectify.