How do power outages happen?

Weather & Traffic Q&As

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Between 2008 and 2017, Texas had the second most power outages in the country, behind California, with more than 1,600 major outages that decade.

Since you’re highly likely to experience an outage each year, it’s helpful to know what causes them.

During a storm, high winds can cause trees branches and debris to damage power lines. Lightning strikes carry a lot of energy. If one strikes near a piece of electrical equipment, it can damage this equipment. To prevent this, safeties, like circuit breakers, will trigger that can cause a power outage.

The most common cause of an outage isn’t weather, it’s squirrels. As many of 20% of power outages in the United States are caused by those furry critters, according to Kendra Acosta with Predernales Electric Cooperative.

“We do a lot to protect our wildlife and prevent animals from getting on the lines, with animal guards and other tools to redirect these animals. Unfortunately, they still make their way up to build a nest or bite on a wire,” Acosta says.

Finally, temperatures can cause an outage. Extreme heat can damage electrical equipment. While cold weather can also cause power lines to become damaged.

“If ice from an ice storm accumulates on a power line, it can cause that line to get heavy and fall.” Acosta says, “The same thing can happen with trees. If ice accumulates on its branches, it can fall on the line and cause an outage.”

Luckily, most outages don’t last very long. If they do, the government has some recommendations to keep you safe. Besides the obvious, like having batteries and a flashlight ready, they also say you should avoid using gas to stay warm, disconnect any electronic devices to prevent a power surge from damaging them and place a thermometer in your fridge.

If the temperature goes above 40 degrees Fahrenheit in your fridge, you should throw out your food to avoid getting sick.

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