This is really strange.
Melanie and I
were driving to Home Depot and saw a small flock of crows
landing on some power lines. As birds do, they shuffled
positions between a couple lines while vying for privileged
spots (it's a bird dominance thing). The snow was falling pretty
hard, and I commented to Melanie that I'm amazed that the birds
hovering around the wires don't come close enough to each other
and to the lines to draw an arc. Snowflakes can carry a pretty
hefty charge through triboelectric effects as they fall from the
clouds, so that added to wet birds and a couple feet between
conductors, and that adds up to a real potential (pun intended)
for an arc.
Incredibly, no sooner had I finished my
comment than I saw a huge flash of light. The birds all
scattered, but I did not see any bird fall. A few seconds later,
a big crow fell off a pole-mounted transformer onto I-79 below
(Erie, PA, at the Interchange Road overpass). So, while my
between-the-lines hypothesis apparently had not been the cause,
it was due to the loser crow getting too close to the
transformer terminals, which are a lot closer together than the
overhead lines. It's definitely a case of being in the wrong
place at the wrong time.
I reported it to the 911 call
center since it caused the traffic lights to go out at the
off-ramp intersection. Power was still out when we went back by
about 20 minutes later, and no repair or emergency personnel
were anywhere in sight.
While Melanie was feeling sorry
for the bird, I was marveling in my good fortune to have
witnessed such a unique event. Would it make me a sadistic SOB
if I said that next time I pass a wind turbine, I'll be watching
closely for a bird getting whacked by a blade?
- Kirt Blattenberger
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster