When it comes to peculiar power outages, Eaton has seen it all. From bears and beavers to bird poop and bags of chips, we have unearthed some of the most obscure instigators while tracking power cuts over the past decade.
Below is a roundup of some of the most unusual outages of 2019 in the U.S. and Canada:
1. Fowl ball. A bird's nest fell into a substation and caused a major power outage at Florida’s Tropicana Field on June 13, delaying the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels for 36 minutes. Despite the very extended “third inning stretch,” Duke Energy officials said they have slashed animal-related outages by 18 percent since installing protective measures back in 2017.
2. Smooth sailing ─ almost! Many Florida Keys residents were without power for an hour and a half on April 9 after a sailboat struck a power line south of Tavernier. Meanwhile, further south in Sanibel, another sailboat accident caused a large outage on Sept. 17. The vessel hit transmission lines to the island, blacking it out for about an hour.
3. On the prowl for an outage. A bobcat induced a blackout in Crestview, Fla., on Jan. 10, impacting 625 customers for about two hours. A utility spokesman for Gulf Power acknowledged that the cut was unique, noting “this is a type of pole you wouldn’t expect an animal like this to climb.”
4. Gunning for it. A Jan. 18 blackout in Randolph County, N.C., resulted in time in the slammer for one man after he allegedly shot at an electrical transformer. He was arrested and charged with felony injuring utility wires/fixture, felony littering hazardous waste, communicating threats, and county ordinance violation.
5. Nothing to Bragg about. North Carolina’s Fort Bragg was blacked out for more than 12 hours the night of April 24 as part of a military exercise that came as a complete surprise to its tens of thousands of residents. The world’s largest military post cut off the electricity as part of a cyber-attack exercise aimed at identifying shortcomings in its infrastructure, operations and security. Officials said no warning was given about the training in order to replicate likely real-world reactions. However, suspicions that the outage was an actual cyberattack spread on social media, ultimately prompting Fort Bragg to issue an apology on Facebook. The blackout not only impacted military facilities, but neighborhoods and businesses on the post, as well.
6. Cutting the power cold turkey. A feathered saboteur was behind a May 15 power outage in Eugene, Ore., that affected 350 customers. Utility officials said a turkey hit a primary feeder line, blacking out residents for nearly an hour and a half. The fowl offender did not survive.
7. It takes two to tango. At least it did in Union City, Tenn., on June 6, when a pair of snakes cut power to more than 600 customers. The serpents slithered into a substation, blacking out homes and businesses for just over an hour.
8. It had a bird’s eye view. Other times, a solo sneak can cause mayhem to the electric supply. On May 13, a five-foot-long snake got on top of a breaker at a substation in Greene County, Tenn., leaving almost 16,000 people in the dark while crew members worked to get the serpent down. Crews were able to restore power in less than an hour, according to a utility representative, who noted that the snake was trying to make its way toward a couple of birds nesting on top of the breaker.
9. Osprey outage. Approximately 3,600 customers in Mashpee, Mass., lost power on May 12 when an osprey nest caught fire. Workers restored power to 95 percent of customers impacted by the outage within four minutes, but a handful remained in the dark for nearly four hours.
10. Throwing power under the bus. A school bus with children on-board crashed into live wires in Long Hill, N.J., Jan. 28, causing power outages in the area. The bus, which struck a telephone pole at an intersection, was safely evacuated by firefighters after the power to the wires was turned off.
11. Animal antics. Our neighbors to the north also couldn’t escape the unusual in 2019, with BC Hydro reporting that customers in Williams Lake were left without electricity when a bear used a power pole as a scratching post. Also in the province, service was disrupted in Clinton when a bald eagle dropped its lunch (a Canadian goose) directly onto a power line. And beavers were blamed for a blackout in Dawson Creek, after trees they were shaving down collapsed on power lines.
13. Busy beavers. On Sept. 19, about 1,300 Missoula, Mont., customers lost power after beavers caused a large cottonwood tree to drop on a line.
14. Soiling the power supply. Wet soil was blamed for causing an underground electric line in Pierre, S.D., to fault, which resulted in a blackout in two main sections of the city on May 8. The outage, which lasted more than four hours, affected about 1,500 customers.
15. Stealing the spotlight. On Jan. 9, copper thieves caused 2,500 Pine Belt, Miss., customers to lose power for at least two hours. When the crooks stole the copper wire, it also sparked a fire in the utility equipment.