Understanding outages

 Understanding outages

We work year-round upgrading and installing new technology that helps improve service. But, when an outage does occur, our top priority is to restore power quickly and safely. We immediately mobilize available crews and equipment to assess the situation and make necessary repairs. We continuously review this work and seek ways to improve your experience by being as responsive and successful as possible.

Outage Causes
Outages may last a few seconds or a few hours, depending upon the cause. The most common causes of power outages are: natural causes, human error and equipment failure. There are also occasions when maintenance will result in an outage.

Natural Causes

Strong storms can cause trees or branches to fall and tear down power lines; tree limbs brushing or resting on lines can cause short circuits and blown fuses. Lightning strikes can damage substations, power lines and equipment. High winds, heavy rain, snow and ice can also damage equipment and cause outages.

There are several reasons why high temperatures can cause outages.

Electricity loads combined with high temperatures cause transformers to heat up, sometimes reaching critical levels that if uncorrected would permanently damage the equipment. The equipment will automatically and safely shut down to protect itself and other equipment.

High current causes stretching of cables, switches and other equipment and can increase the size of minor flaws in insulation or connections.

Electric equipment can be weakened by lightning strikes and circuit failures, making it more susceptible to an outage as it can no longer withstand the increased flow of electricity during periods of high demand.

Small animals, like squirrels, sometimes chew into lines or come into contact with a piece of equipment and an energized line, resulting in their untimely demise, and an interruption of electric service for you.

Human Error

Digging a foot or two in the wrong direction can damage underground power lines, causing an immediate outage or contributing to an outage that occurs days, weeks or months later. Hitting a power line can also result in serious injury.

Before digging anywhere, call 811 to have underground utility lines marked. The service is free and failure to call before you dig may result in criminal or civil penalties.

Vehicle Accidents
Vehicle collosions with utility poles or equipment can also cause outages. These outages can be frustrating for residents who may live some distance away and are unaware of the cause.

Metallic balloons that are released into the air can drift into power lines or electrical equipment and cause power outages.

Equipment Failures
Just like with your car, in spite of regular service, mechanical systems do break down occasionally. The same is true of even the best-maintained electrical distribution and transmission system.

Momentary Outages
A power outage is inconvenient, whether it lasts a second or an hour. But there is a difference between a prolonged power outage and a brief, momentary interruption.

"Momentaries" are split-second interruptions in service. They are an unavoidable part of power delivery systems that have always occurred. Today's sophisticated computers and other electronic equipment are super-sensitive, however, and can be affected by a momentary that lasts only one eight-thousandth of a second.

While annoying, momentaries serve an important purpose. For example, when a tree limb falls on a wire, our system detects a potentially dangerous condition and temporarily breaks the flow of electricity to protect essential parts of our delivery system from major damage. Nevertheless, power may be out just long enough that equipment in your home, like your DVD or microwave, needs reprogramming when you return home.

Preventing Outages
What are we doing to reduce the incidence of outages?

  • We prune trees along our power lines on a regular cycle to help prevent them from damaging or blowing into our power lines.
  • Lightning arresters are in place to provide a harmless path to the ground for electrical surges.
  • We use grounded shield wire above some power lines that acts as a shield from lightning strikes.
  • We install animal guards around our field equipment to protect against short circuits caused by animals.
  • We continually upgrade our facilities to keep pace with growth in our area and enhance reliability.

Outage updates/information
Using new technology, our interactive stormcenter map keeps you informed about known issues in your neighborhood.

The tool provides real-time information 24/7 allowing you to:

  • View a map or search by zip code
  • See how many customers in your area are affected
  • Understand the cause of an outage (when possible)
  • Get information about estimated restoration times (if known) to help plan.

Reporting your outage helps us pinpoint damage and restore power more quickly. You can do this several ways:

  • Call 448-4800.
  • Download our free smartphone app.
  • View/report power outages or receive updates through our online outage map.

Please report a downed line to us immediately by calling 448-4800.

Read more about staying safe around downed power lines.

Prepare for storms and power outages with information on our Storm center page.

Get the Latest Information
When major outages occur, get information about restoration efforts through our news releases, social media and storm information page.

You can also use the new features of our outage map to report and receive updates about outages.