Glendale power outages by cause, 2008-2012

Balloons, equipment failures and squirrels were among the top causes of power outages in Glendale between 2008 and 2012, according to Glendale Water and Power. (Steve Greenberg / Times Community News / January 18, 2014)

Balloons, equipment failure and squirrels were among the top causes of electricity outages in Glendale between 2008 and 2012, according to a city report released this week.

Balloons caused the most outages, 47 out of 292, not counting ones prompted by unknown causes, but Ramon Abueg, chief assistant general manager of electric and water at Glendale Water & Power, said some of those were likely caused by balloons that may have disintegrated after touching power lines.

“People need to be more aware when they release Mylar balloons, they cause a lot of problems,” Abueg said. “They could be released by someone in Orange County, but when they lose helium, they can come down here.”

Abueg has long been known to collect the Mylar balloons his electricians find out in the field after responding to power outages, but now there’s been so many over the years, he’s running out of room in his office.

Equipment failure, mostly caused by aging infrastructure, caused 43 of the outages. While that’s still one of the top outage origins, the number of equipment failures over time has been on the decline as the utility works to replace outdated machinery, Abueg said. There were 14 equipment failures in 2009, with incidents dropping nearly every year, with just three in 2013, he said.

Squirrels were the third most frequent cause of outages, discounting those categorized as unknown. The rodents are often found fried after chewing on aluminum wiring, which short circuits equipment.

Next up was wind, which was the culprit in 22 outages. Most of those were driven by high winds in 2011 that whipped power lines together. Repair work following those heavy winds, which also downed trees that then crushed power lines, cost Glendale Water & Power about $500,000.

Constant trimming of trees costs the city about $750,000 annually, but trees and palm fronds can still be a nuisance to the electricity provider. Trees and palm fronds caused 16 and 18 outages, respectively, during the five-year period.

Years ago, city officials toyed with the idea of placing some overhead wires underground to reduce tree-related outages, but that never took shape because of the endeavor’s expense. Some cities that place their electric wires underground create special assessment districts that charge property owners to raise funds for the project, but Glendale does not have such an ordinance, Abueg said.

“It’s too costly,” he said.

The city only included data through 2012 as that is what is available from neighboring private utility companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric.

The report also states, that systemwide, power outages in 2012 lasted, on average, about 48 minutes, that’s down from roughly 119 minutes in 2011, but up from nearly 36 minutes in 2008.

Comparatively, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison outages lasted, on average, roughly 139 minutes and 108 minutes, respectively, in 2012.

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