85,000 Lose Power in East Texas Due to Good Weather

August 23, 2019

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

Over the years, there have been countless living creatures that have caused power outages, from snakes to squirrels to bobcats.  But, when tens of thousands of SWEPCO customers experienced power outages, it was overgrown vegetation that caused the widespread situation. 

According to Southwestern Electric Power Company, vegetation came into contact with a high-voltage line, Sunday afternoon, causing a short in the system.  High load then caused a second similar line to sag into vegetation below, again creating contact and resulting in another fault. 

At that point, SWEPCO says it went into standard precautionary mode and implemented controlled outages to prevent further system overloads and potential damage to equipment. 

At its peak, about 85,000 customers were without power on a hot summer afternoon, but fortunately, nearly everyone was restored by 11:00pm.

“We’re continuing to investigate the sequence of events to better understand what happened,” said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer.

SWEPCO sent crews were sent out to inspect lines and surrounding vegetation since the outage, but blames the outage on an overabundance of rain during the spring and summer seasons, which caused vegetation to grow faster than expected.  So, what the company is effectively saying is, good weather cause the power outage – instead of taking accountability for keeping an eye on its lines.

“When trees and vegetation come in contact with power lines that can cause faults in the system and that happened around 4:00 and 4:15 on Sunday,” said SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main.

Even though power was restored relatively quickly – especially considering the scope of the outage – not all customers were satisfied that the utility is doing as much as it should to protect its customers from outages.

The outage should serve as a reminder that it doesn’t take high winds, stormy weather, accidents, or even animals to knock out power service.  Good weather can just as easily result in power outages if appropriate precautions aren’t taken.

For businesses, that means installing power protection systems.  While they won’t stop outages from happening, these systems will protect business systems from spikes, surges, brownouts, blackouts, and other causes of fluctuating voltage that can damage technology.  By regulating the incoming power, power protection systems ensure businesses can resume normal operations once power is restored, instead of having to deal with days or even weeks of downtime while systems are restored.