Household electricity: partial outage

The tutor discusses a surprising event last night.

Lately, our electricity has been blinking sometimes. My wife said we should call someone; I said I didn’t expect it was from our own wiring. Therefore, I reasoned, other people would likely be experiencing the same issue; eventually it would be detected and fixed. We never called anyone.

Last night the electricity blinked again. When it returned, not all of my household circuits worked. I could, for instance, turn on some lights, but not others. I checked the electrical panels; all the relevant breaker switches were “ON”. What, I wondered, was transpiring?

Around that time, I heard a heavy truck pull up across the street. Looking out, I saw it was a utility truck parking alongside a power pole. Next I heard the bucket rising workmen to the wires. I had a couple of little chores which I returned to, wondering if the workmen would fix my “partial” electrical outage.

About two minutes later I was plunged into total darkness; the workmen had obviously turned the electricity off so they could fix the wiring. I grabbed a flashlight (my wife had told me where to find it a couple of days back); setting it between my teeth, I continued my chores. The last one was assembling and putting out the garbage.

In the dark garage I loaded the bag and tied it. The main door didn’t work, of course, so I pulled the can through the side door, into the entrance of the house, and out the front.

Outside, I could hear the workmen. A swath of houses around them, including mine, lay dark. I rolled the garbage can up the driveway to the curb, then returned inside.

What seemed like fifteen minutes later, the lights came back on. Absurdly, every light in the house was suddenly on, since I’d tried so many earlier. The electricity was completely restored. I happily walked around the house, turning lights off.

I was still confused how, earlier, with all the circuit breakers “ON”, some circuits had been live but not all. Freshly equipped with electricity, I heated up a coffee in the microwave and went on the ‘net to find an answer.

While I wasn’t optimistic I’d find anything decisive, I should have been. The top option Google suggested – firstenergycorp.com – contains a likely explanation. It points out that, often, a house receives electricity from three wires; if one is damaged, the circuits that depend on that wire may be affected, while the other circuits continue to function.

To my mind, this was an interesting event and explanation:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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