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Portraits of Jackson EMC Linemen
Top Row (L-R) Jason Autry, Jacob Benton, Kelly Porter, Bottom Row (L-R) Scott Burley, Greg Mathis

In the Dark: What caused that outage?

You count on Jackson EMC to make sure the power is there when you flip the switch. And we work hard every day to make that happen. Sometimes, however, outages do occur. Most often, weather and fallen trees cause the disruption in service.

The overhead distribution system is bare wire. Anytime something touches one wire and another it creates a short, or a direct path, that tells the equipment to stop working. The electric grid can be a fragile thing. Trees and limbs, ice, wind and animals can all cause issues with the overhead distribution system.

Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, outage system coordinators dispatch line crews and employ automated technology to restore your service as quickly and safely as possible. The six men on the other side of the radio calls have heard it all. You wouldn't believe some of the outage stories these guys can tell...

Jackson EMC lineman Brandon Mitchell helps a student guide an extendo stick during a demonstration.

Jackson EMC OUTAGE CENTER operator Brandon Mitchell helps a student guide an extendo stick during a demonstration.

So many outages are caused by animals. Last summer, we had an outage caused by a 3-foot snake climbing down a pole. That’s not rare, but at 2 a.m., that was a little out of the ordinary.
Brandon Mitchell


  • A hawk flew into the top of a transformer carrying a rabbit, dropped the rabbit and flew off. 
  • One time, a train hit a deer, which propelled it up into the air and onto the power lines, causing an outage.
  • Cows scratch their backs on guy-wires and knock loose transformers. A 2,400 lb. back rub can be jarring.
  • Squirrels’ teeth grow very fast and they have to chew continuously on hard things to sharpen and shorten them. More than occasionally, squirrels will chew through electrical wiring or on metal posts of the transformers, causing outages.
Mystery surrounded a recurring outage in Madison County until we sat there and watched what was happening. An entire flock of birds was landing on the primary line and weighing it down until one dove’s curiosity caused it to peck the line in front of it. The bird is a conductor; so boom. All the birds would then fly away, leaving no visible cause for the outage.
Kelly Porter


  • During a summer storm, the wind blew a trampoline out of the yard into the line. The metal from the track shorted out the switch. When we showed up, nearly the whole thing was on the line. 
  • A tin roof from a barn blew off and ended up across the lines. 
  • Kites can cause outages when the wet string becomes wrapped around the wires. 
  • Mylar balloons have just enough aluminum in them to act as a conductor between the neutral and primary line. 
  • 3,768 people were without power when a cylinder from a spent firework landed in a substation.
An above ground swimming pool was blown up on the line after a summer storm. It didn’t have much water left in it.
Jason Autry


  • It is not rare for a car to hit a power pole; a train, though? Early in the day, crews had been clearing brush around the guy-wire and knocked it loose, allowing the pole to lean. Later that night a train came down the track and hit the pole, knocking the power out.
  • While being moved from one location to another, houses can snag wires causing an outage. 
  • A car running into a house caused a major outage one night. We had to cut off the power for everyone’s safety.
  • A car went airborne and hit the pole about 10 feet up in the air, breaking the pole in half. Luckily, the driver was okay. 


  • A man once shot transformers causing an outage for several hundred of his neighbors.
A fish was found on the top of a pole. While no one saw a bird put it there, an assumption was made a bird must have tried to land on the pole with the fish in its claw but dropped it. The fish shorted out the line.
Greg Mathis