The 20 most unusual worldwide outages of 2020

Posted by Eaton on January 19, 2021

If a universal lesson emerged from 2020, it was to expect the unexpected — so it’s not surprising that the year’s power outages appropriately followed suit. From an overflow of corn to the backside of a bull, Eaton uncovered some of the most bizarre blackout architects as we tracked power outages across the globe throughout the past 12 months.

Below is a roundup of some of the most unusual outages of 2020:

1. No butts about it
Hundreds of homes in a Scottish town lost power in March due to a four-year-old bull named Ron, who was suffering from what his owner described as an "itchy bum." Attempting to scratch the itch, Ron rubbed up against a utility pole and knocked out power to a transformer box.

2. She definitely hit the sweet spot
Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas was plunged into darkness in February after a softball player proved she was a real ringer! During batting practice, a sprinkler head was struck by a softball at the campus’ athletic complex, which caused flooding inside the facility that led to the failure of a groundwater pump system in an electrical vault. The subsequent flooding then sparked a power outage that affected eight buildings, including several residence halls.

3. Power dropped like flies
A swarm of newly hatched mayflies was blamed for a July 2 outage at a Michigan nuclear power plant. The large throng of flies landed on equipment, causing arcing or a short that in turn knocked out power to one of the plant’s off-site power lines. A spokesperson revealed that the plant routinely decreases the number of exterior and interior lights visible in the area to deter the mayflies from gathering there.

4. He apparently lacked an eagle eye
An eagle that chose to sit on the wrong spot on a transformer was electrocuted in Kodiak, Ala., on Jan. 7, cutting power to 70 homes. The bird was discovered on the ground beneath the power line.

5. Going against the grain
A grain bin that had a small buckle near the bottom collapsed in La Belle, Miss., causing a power outage after damaging a utility line. The April 15 incident also resulted in corn being dispersed across an entire street.

6. Spilling the beans
Not to be upstaged by corn, a tractor-trailer loaded with beans overturned on a highway in Kosciusko County, Ind., on March 19, damaging large utility poles that carry high voltage electric lines and causing a widespread power outage.

7. They should have chosen ballet instead of hip hop
Starlings ‘dancing’ on power lines were determined to be the culprit behind a string of unexplained power cuts across Airth, a small town in Scotland. About 50 local homes were mysteriously being left without electricity for minutes at a time, baffling utility workers. The birds’ antics were finally discovered by a utility engineer who set out to investigate the power lines on an evening walk. He witnessed that the combined mass of thousands of birds simultaneously landing — and bouncing — on the overhead lines was repeatedly causing the lines to clash together and trigger the outages.

8. Power went out before the dust could settle
A crop-dusting helicopter was responsible for a July 31 power outage in Emerson, Neb., after its pilot hit a power line. The pilot, who performed a "controlled landing" in a field, was not injured.

9. DWI or DW13?
A 13-year-old intoxicated driver crashed into a Fallbrook, Calif. electrical pole in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, causing a power outage to 45 customers including the local high school, which had to cancel classes for the day. The teen was driving a parent’s car, which burst into flames when he crashed into the pole. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, and was also cited for driving under the influence.

10. Shake, rattle and roll
A 5.7 earthquake that rocked Magna, Utah, and the surrounding areas on March 18 left 73,000 of residents without power.

11. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … power glider?
An outage in Outagamie County, Wis., on July 4 was blamed on a pair of power gliders who hit a utility line and crashed into a farm field. The man and woman were transported to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

12. Nothing but rubbish
Power was knocked out to a large portion of downtown Gainesville, Ga., on Feb. 10 after a garbage truck crashed into a pole next to a dumpster, taking out a transformer. The incident damaged several power lines, with emergency repairs extending into the following day.

13. Blind as a bat
A bat that "interfered" with utility equipment was blamed for a Sept. 29 blackout in South Australia that left the specialist baby units at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital without power for almost an hour. The incident sparked a full independent review of the hospital’s electrical system after the creature’s tussle tripped circuit breakers.

14. Ratted out
Officials at Las Vegas’ Paris Hotel and Casino blamed rat activity for an Oct. 22 outage that forced guests to be evacuated. Power was lost throughout the resort property, with fire-fighters making six elevator rescues.

15. Mouse tackles power supply
As a national television audience of more than 700,000 viewers tuned in Nov. 4 to watch the first night of the COVID-19 shortened Mid-American Conference football season, a mouse apparently had a play of its own. The rodent called an audible, interfering with utility equipment and causing a power outage that temporarily left viewers – and both football teams – in the dark.

16. Two little osprey sittin’ in a tree…
It wasn’t clear whether the birds were k-i-s-s-i-n-g when they decided to land on a power line in Cape Coral, Fla., on March 27, causing a transformer to blow. Fire-fighters responded to the incident, which sparked a small grass fire. One of the ospreys involved died, while the other was treated at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. He will think twice about sittin’ pretty again.

17. He made out like a bandit
A masked four-legged bandit tangled in utility equipment, leading to a New Year’s Day power outage in Columbus, Ohio. The raccoon’s romp through equipment left 1,100 customers without power.

18. One cooked goose
An early morning power outage in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Jan. 22 was traced to a goose that struck a power line, leaving 1,400 customers in the dark.

19. A very eager beaver
Some 900 Omaha, Neb., customers lost power for 4 ½ hours on Feb. 3 after beaver activity weakened a tree, causing it to collapse on a power line.

20. Sneaky snake
Nearly 700 Spartanburg, S.C., customers were without electricity June 2 after a snaked slithered into a substation. The activity caused a flash, which turned into a fire and led to the power outage.

Tags:  Power LossUPSBackup Power

Posted in: News


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