Blackout and Power Outage Tracker

From animal antics to the wrath of Mother Nature, there’s no shortage of troublemakers when it comes to causing power outages. Discover more about the prevalence, costs and unusual instigators associated with blackouts.

From 2008 to 2018, Eaton tracked power outages to provide helpful information on their causes and impacts. Beginning in 2019, we opted to move from the historic Blackout Tracker Annual Report and instead, focus on sharing some of the year’s most compelling stories associated with power, as well as explore the impacts of blackouts on a variety of specific industries.

We’re also here to provide valuable information to ensure that you and your organization are properly safeguarded against power outages that could affect you and your business.

Each year we highlight some of the biggest outages that wreak havoc on residential and business customers. And those eager to catch the  most obscure blackouts won’t be disappointed, as we continue to divulge some of the strangest outage instigators (spoiler alert: zombies in 2018!).

To stay informed and stay protected, download your free copy of any educational Eaton handbook.

Eaton's Blackout Tracker Annual Report

A power outage is just one of nine common power problems that impact power quality and availability. In many cases, they occur within a building or facility and are not reported publicly. As a result, power-related problems occur far more frequently than what is shown in the Blackout Tracker Report.

We’ve opted to turn the page on the historic Blackout Tracker Annual Report and stopped daily data collection after 2018, which is why reports are through 2018. Download our previous reports below. 

Brace yourself: prepare and protect against winter’s greatest threats

The buildup of ice or snow can prompt sturdy power lines to snap, representing one of the many seasonal extremes that results in power outages. The months of December, January and February bring a wide variety of adverse conditions, from snow squalls to blizzards to bone-chilling winds. In fact, January generally ranks as the snowfall leader, followed by December and February. Learn more about winter-related power outages:

Eaton outages by industry

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Healthcare

There are few sectors where access to continuous, clean power is as vital as the healthcare industry. In the medical world, just a few seconds of downtime can not only cost an organization hundreds of thousands of dollars, but any disturbance in power can also cost lives.

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Education

There is a clear expectation for 100 percent uptime across today’s educational landscape. Nearly 56 million students rely on the availability of IT services. The estimated 22.4 million students served by colleges and universities throughout the country require always-on technology.

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Retail

The retail industry is undergoing a revolution, driven in large part by big data. Not only is the storefront changing, but so are the requirements to ensure that both data and electronic equipment are properly safeguarded against potentially devastating power quality issues and outages.

Cost and causes of downtime

The U.S. experiences more power outages than any other developed nation. And when the grid goes down, companies like yours suffer; every minute of downtime results in thousands of dollars lost in productivity. But what causes downtime? The truth is, unforeseen mishaps and grid maintenance issues are often to blame.

Consider the price of one missed “9.” Collaboration and messaging software company Slack surrendered $8.2 million in revenue after its work-communications platform went down for about two hours over a 92-day period in 2019. The hefty sum was issued in credits to users after the company achieved only 99.9% service uptime for the quarter — short of its 99.99% commitment (which allows just 52 minutes, 36 seconds of downtime per year).

Meanwhile, personnel at Nissan and Infiniti dealerships endured a bumpy road following an August 18, 2019 outage that knocked out key systems at the firm’s Colorado data center, halting functions that dealers use to perform essential tasks at franchise locations. While some systems were restored within a couple of days, others remained offline longer, preventing dealers from ordering new cars and parts for vehicles, checking incentives and rebates, filing warranty claims, checking for recalls, and even determining how much customers owed on a loan or lease.

Beat the heat: prepare and protect against summer’s greatest threats

While usually a highly anticipated time of year, it can be easy to forget that the season also brings with it a sizzling span of threats, from triple-digit temperatures to thrashing thunderstorms. Power anomalies clearly don’t take a summer vacation; in fact, more than 36 percent of all U.S. power outages occur during the summer months, according to data compiled by Eaton’s Blackout Tracker between 2008-2017.

How to properly safeguard your organization against power outages

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Request a free power audit and site assessment with a qualified expert. An Eaton specialist can come to your facility or discuss your needs over the phone.

An uninterruptible power supply or a UPS system is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source or mains power fails. Learn the top 10 tips to choosing the right UPS battery backup for your power infrastructure. 

Blackout and outages from the news

Each year, we collect a list of both the most significant outages of the year as well as the most unusual. With so many outages, our challenge is simply cutting down each list to a manageable size. Check out our latest lists below.

 

 

Below is a roundup of some of the most unusual outages of 2021:

If you thought power outages were primarily sparked by the wrath of Mother Nature, prepare to be surprised. Once again, Eaton has tracked blackouts across the globe to compile the year’s most obscure ── and you won’t be disappointed. From a naked woman to a toilet to a foiled kidnapping attempt, we are divulging some of the strangest outage instigators of 2021.

1. Flushing power down the toilet
Firefighters blamed a malfunctioning toilet for an early morning power outage in Madison, Wis., on Dec. 2. Responding to a 911 call, officials were met by a building occupant who said his toilet’s flush was broken and had been flushing for several hours (he tried to reach maintenance workers and local plumbers before resorting to calling 911). The water eventually seeped through several spots ── including the electrical supply ── cutting power to the entire building, including a restaurant on the ground floor.

2. Dirty power? Nope, dirty water
A sloppy cleaning crew that spilled a large amount of water caused a 7 ½-hour outage at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Nov. 12. Water seeped through a floor and onto an electrical box, tripping the system and leaving staff to conduct many essential operations manually, from ticketing to security. Some planes had to be diverted to another airport, while more than 60 others were canceled or delayed.

3. Flaming tennis ball
Don’t try this at home, kids. Three California teenagers learned the hard way that it’s all fun and games until someone causes a blackout. After lighting a tennis ball on fire, the trio sparked a massive two-alarm fire May 22 that left 8,700 Martinez residents in the dark and heavily damaged at least one house and several vehicles.

4. The naked truth 
A woman who somehow entered and locked herself inside a secure control room was arrested in Las Vegas Feb. 3 after causing a three-hour power outage to the entire Circa hotel, casino and parking garage. Employees found the woman sitting naked in a chair after she allegedly disconnected wires and damaged a panel housing the electrical controls for generators, slot machines, gaming tables and elevators. Previously a patron at the hotel, the woman had been evicted from her room earlier that day after walking around the hotel floors naked and going into rooms meant strictly for employees. 

5. When the cat’s away
The mice will not only play, but apparently chew through power transmission equipment, as well. Rodent-related damaged was blamed for a May 18 outage in New South Wales, Australia, where an ongoing invasion of mice was causing mayhem. Local farmers had crops eaten and homes infested, with the rodents reportedly spreading into neighboring states.

6. An explosive outage
Following decades of inactivity, the Caribbean’s La Soufriere volcano on the island of Saint Vincent erupted April 11, triggering power cuts as it spewed dark clouds of ash some 6 miles into the air.  While power was restored after several hours, the incident prompted the evacuation of thousands of people, with about 20,000 residents expected to be displaced for three to four months.

7. Eager beaver
A tree-chomping beaver was the instigator behind a Sept. 16 outage near Multnomah Falls, Ore. As the rodent was gnawing away, wind knocked the tree over and onto a power line, which then sparked a brush fire. In addition to causing a blackout, the fire required 20 fire fighters, two engines, three brush rigs and two water tenders to bring it under control after about two hours.

8. A cheeky chipmunk
Within the first month of the semester, New York’s Vassar College experienced two power outages, both caused by a chipmunk that tripped a circuit breaker inside the campus’ high voltage switchgear. The Sept. 17 and Sept. 25 blackouts, which both lasted just over an hour, affected dorms and other buildings. To help prevent similar occurrences, the college laid out crystals intended to deter the animals from entering the area. Since the use of the crystals, there has not been another power outage.

9. An excavator joyride
It was a less-than-super Super Bowl for dozens of Fort Lauderdale residents who were forced to find another way to watch the big game after losing power on Jan. 28. About 100 homes were left in the dark after a man randomly started operating an excavator that was parked on the street for a project. Video showed him knocking the machine into power lines before eventually hopping out and riding away on a bicycle. Crews from Florida Power & Light worked well into the night to restore electricity.

10. A smoking gun
Residents in Abbeville, La., got an unexpected wake-up call Dec. 29 when a transformer exploded and knocked out power to most of the city. When electrical workers arrived to repair the issue, they discovered that someone had shot the transformer. No suspects or motives had been identified.

11. A real train wreck
A train derailment west of Field, B.C., Canada, damaged electrical infrastructure on Jan. 26, resulting in a lengthy power outage to the surrounding area.  Although customers were initially supplied power from the ESF battery back-up, that source only held up until noon, leaving the entire village powerless for the remainder of the day.

12. Damaging drizzle
More than 26,000 customers in the area around El Cerrito, Calif., were left powerless on Sept. 19 after the season’s first bout of heavy fog and drizzle rolled into the region. The light rain caused dirt on power lines to turn to mud, which conducts electricity and causes outages.

13. Too hot to handle
A raccoon likely looking for a warm place to spend a cold night got more than he intended when his trespassing caused power to arc between two lines inside a Cody, Wyo., substation. The critter perished in the April 12 incident, as well as sparked an hours-long power outage. While utility crews had installed mesh to keep birds from getting into transformers and substations, the method apparently wasn’t enough to deter a racoon’s crafty little paws.

14. Silly goose!
More than 6,000 East Providence residents lost power on March 18 after a goose flew into a transformer. The mayhem left some customers without electricity for several hours.

15. Kidnapping fiasco
A man was arrested on charges including assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping following a May 11 incident in Fresno, Calif., that resulted in a power outage. The driver of an SUV rammed a motorcycle being ridden by his ex-girlfriend and another man, causing both to be thrown off. He then attempted to kidnap the woman and drove off erratically, eventually crashing into a power pole.

Below is a roundup of the most significant weather-related outages of 2021:

From an unprecedented Texas ice storm to a hurricane that left some Louisiana residents powerless for a month, Mother Nature left no corner of North America unscathed. As these significant storms left millions of outages in their wake, Eaton captured the most severe. We know the devastation they can cause both personally and professionally. Our thoughts are with all that have been touched by such events.

1. A Texas-sized polar vortex
More than 4.5 million homes and businesses were left in the dark the week of Feb. 15 after an unprecedented ice storm blasted the state, necessitating widespread rolling blackouts. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said the state’s power grid was "seconds or minutes away” from a complete failure when partial shutdowns were implemented. The massive failure resulted in an economic toll exceeding $130 billion, and was blamed for the deaths of at least 210 people ── with some estimates as high as 702. Texas had previously isolated from major national grids to deregulate its energy sector, which made it difficult for the state to import electricity from other states during the crisis.

2. Ravaging Ida
Hurricane Ida walloped the South on August 29 as a Category 4 storm, damaging some 30,000 utility poles, more than 36,000 spans of wire and nearly 6,000 transformers. The storm, which caused more damage than Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Delta and Zeta, left 1.2 million customers throughout the country without power as it made its way into the Northeast. While Louisiana was the hardest hit state ── with some customers still in the dark 15 days later ── blackouts from the hurricane extended as far north as Massachusetts.

3. Thunderous blackouts
More than 1 million customers across Michigan woke up without electricity August 11 after fast-moving thunderstorms wreaked havoc across the state. Winds as high as 70 mph toppled trees, limbs and power lines, leading to widespread damage to utility equipment, including more than 3,000 downed power lines. Customers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana were also impacted by the round of storms, and about 550,000 customers were still waiting to have electricity restored nearly two days later.

4. Terrifying twisters
A powerful storm system of at least 21 tornadoes swept through the central U.S. on Dec. 15, leaving at least five people dead and 406,000 without power in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado and Missouri. High winds combined with record-breaking warm temperatures to fuel wildfires and knock down power lines, creating Minnesota’s first tornado on record in December, as well as a record for the most hurricane-force winds of 75 mph or higher in a single day since 2004.

5. You wind some, you lose some
Restoration was expected to take days after a windstorm knocked out power to more than a half-million people across Washington’s Puget Sound region on Jan. 13. An additional 220,000 customers were impacted across British Columbia.

6. Coastal chaos
Nearly 500,000 Massachusetts homes and businesses were left without power Oct. 19 after a storm battered the state’s coastal communities with wind gusts as high as 94 miles per hour. Four days later, more than 50,000 customers remained in the dark after winds tore trees from the ground, dropped branches and utility poles, pushed boats aground and picked up a small plane tethered down at an airport.

7. Sweeping away the power supply
Some Montreal-area residents remained without power for more than two days after a windstorm swept through the province on Dec. 11. Although electricity was returned to most of the 400,000+ customers who lost power, it took time for utility crews to assess and repair some of the outlying areas.

8. Icing out electricity
A three-day snow and ice storm knocked out power to more than 350,000 Oregon residents on Feb. 12, prompting the governor to call in the National Guard to go door-to-door in areas hardest hit to make sure residents had enough food and water. About 60,000 people remained without power a week after the storm first swept into the greater Portland area. At least four people died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using propane heaters, grills or generators inside their homes to keep warm.

9. Outages, as sure as the wind blows
A two-day windstorm that fanned brush fires and toppled trees left 286,000 Californians without power across the state Jan. 20-21. Winds in excess of 50 mph impacted the northern part of the state, while hurricane-force gusts of around 85 mph hit San Diego County. While thousands of outages resulted from wind damage, others were initiated as public safety power shutoffs, intended to prevent sparks from downed or damaged equipment from starting fires. At least 15,000 customers in Southern California and 5,000 in the northern and central areas of the state were intentionally shut off, with preliminary reports showing that at least 125 power poles and 125 transformers had been damaged.

10. Taking a rain check on power
More than 140,000 California residents endured power outages following a weekend storm Oct. 23-24. The utility reported major damage from the atmospheric river that brought down trees and power lines during one of the most potent storms to hit Northern and Central California in over a decade. Some businesses remained in the dark for three days, forcing them to shut down.

11. No tropical delight
Although Tropical Storm Henri weakened as it moved inland after making landfall on August 22, the wild weather left at least 140,000 outages in its wake, cutting power to residents from New Jersey to Maine. The following morning, more than 60,000 customers remained without electricity.

12. Botched equipment
A transmission circuit failure was blamed for an August 21 blackout that impacted nearly 130,000 homes on Vancouver Island. Homes on both the southern and northern parts of the island were impacted.

13. Storm central
More than 125,000 customers in Michigan were without power July 24 after a series of severe storms and possible tornadoes tore through the state. Most of the outages were concentrated in the Detroit area in Oakland and Wayne counties.

14. Raining on their parade
Rain and wind that moved through metro Detroit on Sept. 21 DTE says the rain and wind moving through metro Detroit since Tuesday left around 121,000 people in the dark as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. That number has gone down since then, with DTE's outage map showing over 89,000 people without power as of 10:30 p.m. DTE says this was the 12th storm to impact more than 25,000 customers in three months.

15. Hurricane havoc
Slamming onto shore as a Category 1 hurricane on Sept. 12, Nicholas left more than 100,000 customers along the Texas coastline without power. Complete restoration took days in some areas as Nicholas, downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, moved east near Port Arthur toward Louisiana.

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