A small town’s sudden power surge fried tech gear in hundreds of homes

power surge damage 33452152  hot fiery lightning burning electrical background
Cappan/123RF
Residents in the small Pennsylvania town of Brookville must’ve wondered what on earth was going on earlier this month when a sudden power surge caused electrical appliances and gizmos in up to 1,000 homes to fry, explode, or simply conk out.

What may have momentarily seemed like some kind of weird supernatural happening was actually an electrical surge caused by a failed power line component, according to a report by The Associated Press. Local media said that “damage ranged from residents losing a refrigerator to losing all appliances in the kitchen or losing everything in the house.”

Up to a quarter of the town’s 4,000 residents were thought to have been affected by the incident, with many reporting fried computers, burned electrical meters, and damaged power strips. Some even spoke of fluorescent lights suddenly exploding.

When the surge occurred, the high volume of calls flooding into the emergency services forced the local fire department to call for extra help from three nearby facilities.

As for the local cops, the incident tripped its main office radio, causing them to miss the first emergency calls. The first they knew something was up was when they heard the fire trucks roaring through the town.

“We were fortunate that nobody was hurt,” Tracy Zents, the director of Jefferson County’s Department of Emergency Services, told AP.

Power for part of Brookville was lost at around lunchtime but was fully restored by late afternoon.

Scott Surgeoner, a spokesperson for energy provider FirstEnergy, said the cause of the outage wasn’t entirely clear, but mentioned that insulator failures — like the one suspected in this case — can occur after years of being exposed to harsh weather.

“It’s similar to an alternator in a car,” he told AP.  “Why does it fail after a few years? Mine might last for 10 years, but yours might last for five. … Any equipment that is on a pole in the air and is subjected to weather 365 days a year, 24 hours a day is susceptible to failure.”

Surgeoner pointed out that affected residents can file claims to their local provider and also use their homeowner’s insurance to cover any damage.

Worried about a power surge hitting your home? Check out DT’s recent piece on the best surge protectors.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in August, from ‘Dark Tourist’ to 'Disenchantment'

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in August 2018, from ‘Her’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Product Review

The gorgeous Oppo Find X plays hard to get, but is it worth the chase?

Is the Oppo Find X the most beautiful smartphone we’ve ever seen? We think it’s right up there, but because it’s an import-only phone, you’ll have to put in some effort to get one. Is it worth going the extra mile?
Smart Home

Cortana and Alexa can now call each other as new relationship begins

Microsoft and Amazon announced a public preview of Cortana and Alexa integration. U.S. customers can now open Cortana with Alexa and vice versa. Basic functions such as calendars and shopping lists are available with the preview.
Product Review

Philips Hue’s Color Ambience makes smart home lighting simple and stylish

It’s not the cheapest smart lighting available, but for those seeking style and sophistication, it’s certainly the best.
Smart Home

Hands-on with the Glas, the most beautiful thermostat you’ve ever seen

Johnson Controls today opened the doors for consumers to buy Glas, the company's answer to Nest and Ecobee, the Honeywell Lyric, and basically every other company that thought it would turn that simple round dial on the wall on its ear.
Smart Home

The Glas thermostat is now available and works with Cortana, Alexa, and Google

Microsoft just debuted its very own smart thermostat (the first that it's created), and of course, it can be controlled via voice with Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Smart Home

How to set up your Lenovo Smart Display

Here's how to set up your Lenovo Smart Display, including what information you need to provide to the Home app and how to choose the right Google Assistant settings for your new smart screen.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Smart Home

Fraudulent sales of home alarm systems are on the rise nationwide

According to a new consumer survey from the Consumer Federation of America, there are increasing reports of bad actors using scare tactics and manipulation to sell fraudulent alarm systems.
Smart Home

A school district subsidizes a tiny home community for teachers

The lack of affordable housing in Arizona's Vail school district prompted the plan for a community of tiny homes reserved for educators. Other cities in the U.S. use the tiny abodes for homeless and economically disadvantaged people.
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.
Smart Home

Vitamix recalls 100,000 blender containers after multiple ‘lacerations’

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of about 105,000 Vitamix blending containers after 11 customers reported accidents, including lacerations due to a design flaw in the product.