Criminals, Critters Cause Utility Outages

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As part of its focus on the market for uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), Eaton Corp. tracks reports of utility power outages across the U.S. with its Blackout Tracker. The tool highlights the frequency of electric utility outages, which reinforces the value of UPS systems that keep data centers running when grid power is unavailable.

But the tracker also identifies some offbeat causes of power outages, and the team from Eaton has identified some interesting ones. None of these directly affected data centers, but they remind us that Murphy’s Law is still in effect.

  • You’d be surprised at how many power outages are caused by animals. In most cases, however, it is squirrels rather than raccoons that provide the largest headache for power companies. That was the case on Dec. 24, when a squirrel caused a power outage at Downtown Disney, part of the Disney resort in Orlando, Florida.
  • A determined osprey caused several outages in Leesburg, Florida last May. The osprey, who earned the nickname Sparky, built a nest atop a utility pole that caused a short circuit, fire and outage. The bird then moved to the next pole and constructed another one nest, resulting in another fire. Crews erected a special pole with a dish on top for Sparky which the bird happily accepted and used for its new nest.
  • Human activity figures in plenty of outages, too. In December, a transformer overloaded and blew up in Pasco County, Florida, causing a local power outage. An investigation revealed a local structure stealing power from the grid. It turned out to be a marijuana greenhouse where local sheriff’s officers confiscated 11 marijuana plants, all over six feet tall, that weighed 73 pounds total.
  • Then there’s the incident at the Carter County jail in Elizabethton, Tenn., where a power outage led to the apprehension of an inmate who attempted to escape through a crawl space above the ceiling and touched electrical wires.

For more strange but true causes of utility downtime see this post at Pingdom.

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