#1 CAUSE OF BLACKOUTS

bykfixer

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John 3:16
One year in Greensboro NC there was an ice storm where 6!!! inches of ice covered half the state. Millions lost power. I watched what looked like the US bombing in Dessert Shield from my balcony as power plant after power plant was being annihilated by the surrounding trees or just the weight of the ice.

I started a crock pot batch of chicken soup and went to bed thinking any time my power would be out. Woke up the next morning to the smell of chicken soup. Huh? My kitchen light was still on too. There was a small island in Greensboro that did not lose power. How? I do not know. My apartment complex had underground lines but main roads nearby had overhead. From Stateville (west 100+ miles) to Oxford (east 150+ miles) to the VA line to Charlotte almost everybody was out of power.

Besides seeing cars, trees, lawn furniture etc encased in a half foot of ice, the crazy part was at my job everybody was at work the next day like it was just a normal day.
 

LuxLuthor

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Other than significant storms, other things that took our power out 4 times was a drunk driver hitting a power pole 3 times, and car sliding on snow/ice hitting pole one time.
 

ghostguy6

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There seem to be two main causes for power outages in my area. One being in the summer when everyone cranks their AC units, fans and other cooling appliances draw more juice this eventually overloads the system. The other is drunk drivers plowing into the infrastructure. Apparently years ago no one thought of traffic when they placed a few key substations and poles. There is one road where you drive downhill straight into the setting sun only to have to make a sharp left turn. People miss the turn and hit a transformer at least 4 times a year. At least the county finally put some K rails and rocks in the way.
 

IMA SOL MAN

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Other than significant storms, other things that took our power out 4 times was a drunk driver hitting a power pole 3 times, and car sliding on snow/ice hitting pole one time.
Talk to the power company about hardening the area around the poles to prevent traffic-related outages.
 

TPA

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I'm laughing as I read this. Everyone's concerns here seem so quaint. At my temporary condo, I've seen 46 power outages in the past year. Most have only been a few minutes, with a few lasting more than an hour or two. Comcast has had ~50 days of cumulative downtime in the same period. Such is life after a Cat 5 hurricane, except Comcast...their reliability sucks even in the absence of a hurricane.

As I posted elsewhere, because of Hurricane Ian, we went 105 days without utility power at my home. We managed to get jerry-rigged generator power to our home's breaker panel and some parts of the building after ~50 days. It's been a full year and still no phone/TV/internet. Today marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Ian hitting SW FL, including my home, which is still standing, but still uninhabitable. ::sigh::

To their credit, most of the Florida power companies did an absolutely tremendous job with this hurricane. 65% of people with outages were restored within the first 24 hours after the storm. FP&L had completely rebuilt the transmission lines on Fort Myers Beach, from scratch, within 15 days. People whose homes were originally fed directly from overhead lines were the first to get power back. The underground drops would take much longer, and government red tape prevented many from reconnecting for quite awhile. Granted, some of us were in no shape to receive utility power.

Now, there are some Florida utilities which deserve the golden :poop: award. Lee County Electric Co-Op gets the golden :poop: award for their response to Hurricane Ian. 5 days after the storm, they still had ZERO customers with power. Lots of (dumb) reasons for this: First, they shut down their grid before the storm arrived and kept it shut off for 48 hours before bothering to do anything. Second, they never hardened their grid. Old, rotten wooden poles which snapped under the wind load. Third, they insisted on using their own staff and resources to rebuild their grid, despite there being a ton of 3rd parties in town who were willing to help, including other co-ops, especially since FPL was wrapping up their recovery and these guys were now free agents. LCEC refused. Eventually the governor and other government officials put serious pressure on them and they reluctantly accepted help from outside agencies and the lights started to slowly come back on.

As far as town size dictating outages, at least in these parts that's not a factor. The smaller utilities often do better. In New Smyrna Beach, we lost power for 3 hours because of Hurricane Ian. Even with the wind still howling, the local crews were still working.
 

Poppy

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24 years ago we bought a house in a PUD, Planned unit development. It was built with underground cables. During Sandy we lost power for 3 1/2 days. While the development was all underground utilities, It was fed by way of an above ground source.
 

bykfixer

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Yup, the subdivision adjacent to mine has all underground and when my power is out so is theirs unless it's a specific wire in my subdivision. Actually I've seen times where they were dark when my area was lit.
 
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idleprocess

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While the development was all underground utilities, It was fed by way of an above ground source.
This is commonplace, probably because the insulation requirements for buried lines become increasingly prohibitive once the voltages begin to exceed last-mile distribution. Transformer on the corner of my lot is labeled 7200V or 30 times the 240V feeds to building panels - its feed lines looked to be about two inches / 50mm in diameter, and - judging by the hole they dug during the replacement - were buried some ~8ft / 2.4m underground.
 
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I previously worked on utility infrastructure installation projects that featured project work in ten states. Most of the communities I worked in were served by above-ground power transmission and distribution lines, except for northern California, more specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Cruz County, parts of San Jose County, and Monterey County: virtually all of these had the power lines installed below grade, in conformance with the state's Seismic Code. (In areas where the ground can be counted on to shake violently from time to time, poles and wires can also be counted on to fall down. Live transmission and distribution lines are unwelcome hazards for everyone, especially first responders, hence the code requirement for underground utility installation.)

In the above-ground communities however, the most common power outage I encountered was due to vehicle-pole collisions. Regardless of the cause, when a car or truck hits a wooden utility pole at speed, the pole often breaks; the line breaks; and service is interrupted. And as jtr1962 so aptly noted, in rural areas it's not cost-effective to install power lines below grade. And its in rural areas where folks tend to perhaps at times drive a wee bit too fast, and when a car (or more commonly, a truck) hits a pole at highway speeds, the pole tends not to survive the encounter. (I'll limit my comments in this thread to the effect on the pole...I've sadly seen a few vehicle-pole collisions where one or more of the vehicle occupants also did not survive to encounter.)

Regardless of the cause of the service interruption, when a line break involves a higher voltage local transmission line (as opposed to a lower voltage last mile distribution line), entire neighborhoods and sometimes small towns can be affected. And so to reinforce what bigburly912 wrote above, when you see a utility work crew, thank 'em.

(I swear officer, the pole came outa nowhere...)
 

jtr1962

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Some decisions are made based on profit-is it cheaper to prevent the problem, or fix it after it breaks? Some decisions are made due to incompetence-eh, it's good enough. A lot of decisions that are made...:awman::wtf::rant::mad::banghead::poop::xyxgun:
In the case of a utility pole which is hit repeatedly by incompetent drivers, I'm not seeing any scenario where it's cheaper to just keep fixing it. After all, bollards, or something similar, aren't that expensive. My guess is institutional inertia as to why many of these things aren't fixed. Pole breaks for the third time this month, just call in the folks who fix it. Sort of like the cheat sheets telemarketers get. For that scenario, there's no other option. And they might not even know who to call to harden the area around the pole.

My experience tells me it's almost always better to design to prevent a problem, rather than fix it. Case in point which I'm very familiar with locally-potholed streets. Why aren't we just rebuilding streets with concrete whenever their time for repair comes up, instead of repeatedly fixing the same potholes, often several times a year? In the long run, the first approach has to be cheaper. Plus there's a labor shortage of people who "fix" stuff. Moreover, once done the street will remain in great condition for at least 50 years. With asphalt you're lucky to get a year out of it before it goes from "good" to "fair". Streets are in poor condition more often than not. I have no good answer to why we're not doing things differently, other than institutional inertia, along with possible payoffs to those in charge of assigning contracts for street work. Sometimes the goal seems to be to keep people in make-work jobs.
 

Monocrom

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Ah yes, infamous NYC pot-holes. Or, axle-breakers.
Construction workers will NEVER fix them, properly.
Why? Each time they do a temporary fix, they get paid to do it again!
And again, and again, and again.... A fix that lasts longer than a year?
Imagine all the revenue they'd lose out on by fixing it properly!
Nevermind that they rip up perfectly good roads on a regular basis.
Or, that it takes them forever to repair the ones that need fixing.
I seriously have more respect for Working-girls on the street corners.
At least they're actually working, instead of standing around doing nothing.
 

IMA SOL MAN

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Ah yes, infamous NYC pot-holes. Or, axle-breakers.
Construction workers will NEVER fix them, properly.
Why? Each time they do a temporary fix, they get paid to do it again!
And again, and again, and again.... A fix that lasts longer than a year?
Imagine all the revenue they'd lose out on by fixing it properly!
Nevermind that they rip up perfectly good roads on a regular basis.
Or, that it takes them forever to repair the ones that need fixing.
I seriously have more respect for Working-girls on the street corners.
At least they're actually working, instead of standing around doing nothing.
I don't know, Monocrom, I hear there is a lot of lying down on the job involved in their work. :crackup:
 

Monocrom

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I don't know, Monocrom, I hear there is a lot of lying down on the job involved in their work. :crackup:
The only laying down they actually do is in bed. Seriously, City construction workers out here are some of the laziest bums you will ever encounter. Show up, toss some asphalt on the ground, take one of their 1,086 Union coffee breaks that they are legally entitled to in one day because the city's attorneys bend over backwards for the unions. I legit have more respect for drug dealers. Again, at least those guys are actually working. Hustling on a daily basis.

To clarify, I have mountains of respect for construction workers who work for private companies. The harder they work, the more they earn. Unlike city construction workers who are guaranteed work, given a budget, and then next year given a smaller budget if they do a great job and finish projects early. But if they finish them late, they get a bigger budget the following year because the city just assumes the problem was due to not enough funds. They are literally incentivized to be lazy as Hell!
 
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