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