Power outages can be inconvenient and dangerous if you’re not prepared. What causes power outages? There are a number of reasons, including inclement weather, equipment failure and planned outages.
- Weather: Weather-related events cause almost 80% of all power outages, making it by far the most common reason for an outage. Regular weather occurrences, such as snow and ice, hail, lightning, winds, heat, humidity and flooding (whether from rain or rising tides) can all cause outages. More extreme weather events are likely to cause damage as well. Tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires and volcanos (including eruption, ash fall and lava flow) are all concerns in regions throughout the US. A phenomenon called tracking can also result in a power outage. Tracking occurs when dust and moisture combine on power lines and become a conductor, resulting in an interruption in power supply.
- Trees: One of the reasons wind and ice can affect power is not that these weather patterns directly harm power equipment. Instead, nearby trees are damaged and then fall onto power lines or poles.
- Wildlife: Critters, especially squirrels and birds, love resting on power lines and poles. Occasionally, they look for food or someplace warm to nest and damage equipment, causing power outages.
- Vehicles: Many roads, from two-lane streets to highways, are lined with the equipment that supplies communities’ power. Car accidents and oversized construction equipment can easily damage power poles or lines, disrupting power supply.
- Excavation: The power equipment above ground is more often affected by weather and accidents. However, buried grids can also fail. Construction and landscaping can disrupt lines and be the reason for a power outage.
- High Demand: This cause of power outages is most common on warm summer afternoons when entire regions are drawing power to keep their homes and businesses cool. When there’s more demand than available power, a community could experience a brownout or blackout.
- Planned Outages: To protect workers and customers, power is “turned off” during maintenance. Planned outages may also occur during wildfires and other natural disasters for safety. The power company generally lets customers know when power will be unavailable in their neighborhood and for how long.
- Equipment Failure: In the United States, the power grid is aging. Equipment failure, especially during periods of high demand, could also be the reason for a power outage.