Why Storms Cause Power Outages: Understanding the Impact

why do storms cause power outages

When the electricity flickers, we hold our breath. And, we curse when it goes out and stays out.

We will look at why do storms cause power outages and how best to handle the next one.

What is the most common cause of power outage?


Weather events are the most common cause of death among power outages. 

Storms are a natural enemy of electricity. 

  • wind
  • extreme heat
  • ice and snow 
  • lightening 
  • flooding

Why does electricity go out during storms?

Let’s better understand why storms cause power outages, so at least we’ve got an idea of what the problem may be when you’re stuck in the dark.


Wind Blowing

Whether a gust or steady wind can do all sorts of damage to a power line.

  • When swinging wildly, two powerlines can collide and cause a fault or short circuit that turns the lights out.
  • Strong winds can take down an entire tree, which then takes out entire power lines. This is dangerous because the lines are then on the ground, creating a public health hazard.
  • And with violent enough winds, utility poles and connected power lines can break, which leads to widespread outages.

What do you do in a power outage at night?

  • First, grab the candles from your emergency kit. You don’t need a stubbed toe.
  • You want to keep your fridge and freezer closed to retain as much cold as possible.
  • Turn on your generator. Only if it is outdoors and not near any windows!
  • Never use your oven and stove for light or heat when the power goes out.
  • Disconnect everything from outlets in case a surge comes in when energy is restored. Make sure your phone / radio works.
  • Have an emergency plan in place, especially if you have special medication or medical devices. Having a few shelf stable emergency foods is also good.
  • Contact local officials to find a community cooling or heating station if it’s too cold or too hot.

Extreme Heat


During the summer months, we use more electricity because it’s damned hot. But, the increased use puts a strain on equipment, which can overload

Extreme heat can cause other damage that will result in loss of service.

  • Sagging power lines
  • Cable failures
  • Shorted circuits and transformers

Ice & Snow


Heavy ice and snow buildup will break branches that fall on electricity lines. The weight of all that cold stuff can even break the power line itself.



Lightening is a threat because it’s looking for the quickest route to the ground. It means that tall utility poles are a prime target for a strike.

A direct hit is not the only way lightning can lead to a power outage. It can hit trees and branches that then fall onto the lines, causing service interruptions.

What is it called when you lose power for no more than a few seconds?

When lights flicker, it isn’t an outage. It’s called all sorts of things, though, including power flickers, momentary outages, and brief service interruptions.

As long as the power comes back, it really doesn’t matter why it happened. But, it is annoying that everything in the house restarts.

And, we will never remember to change the clock on the stove.


Flooding presents more problems than you’d think. It can damage overhead and underground utility equipment.

Tons of flowing water can take down trees, too. In turn, emergency personnel and repair crews must clear a way to respond.

Why do electricity go off when it rains?

Heavy and torrential rains don’t always have to lead to a flood, disrupting service.

  • Knocks down power lines
  • Blows objects into power lines
  • Floods above ground and underground equipment
  • Damages insulation

Other Causes for a Power Outage

Even during a storm, it might not be the actual storm that takes out your power.

Vehicle Accidents

Wrecks on the road sometimes include utility poles. When that happens, a whole area experiences a power outage. And, there’s not a whole lot anyone can do until the accident is resolved.

Small Animals

We’ve all experienced it. A cute little squirrel walks the tight line, and the next thing that happens is a loud pop sound.

We know that the critter likely didn’t survive because our electricity rarely survives.


Trees fall by themselves sometimes, especially the old and hollow ones. 

Sure, storms are the number one reason why a power outage happens.

But, it feels like trees are the real enemy.

FAQs about Storms & Power Outages

Why does lightning make the power go out?

Lightening can short your utilities if it strikes a pole. When lightning hits a tree, it increases the odds of it falling onto power lines, taking your utilities with it.

Why don’t you have water after a power outage?

You’d think you at least would have water when the power goes out, but alas, it might go out due to the low-pressure switch.

A water tank has a certain amount of pressure; without power, the pressure drops, which causes the water level to drop. Just try and only use water when you absolutely have to.

How can I charge my phone without electricity?

You can charge your cellphone or other device using a charged laptop. Using the USB ports, plug in your phone, and it should charge.

It won’t charge your phone quickly, so avoid using it while it’s charging on your computer. If you’re relying on this hack to keep a charge on your phone, avoid using the laptop for anything else, just for preservation.

Does a well work during a power outage?

We love our well water, but when the power goes, the well pump will go out, too.

You should be able to draw from the well until the water storage tank is empty.

What is the longest power outage in the US?

In 2017, Hurricane Maria took out power in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It affected hundreds of thousands of people and lasted 100 days. 

What would happen if the whole world lost electricity?

Let’s just say that preparedness & self-reliance is key to surviving if the world loses access to electricity. Everything we do, from grocery stores to drinking tap water, relies on access to power.

Do thunderstorms always cause power outages?

Thunderstorms do not always cause power outages. Power outages can also be caused by smaller incidents such as fallen tree branches or even car accidents.

Can a thunderstorm trip a breaker?

A thunderstorm can cause a breaker to trip. This happens when a lightning strike generates a surge in your home’s electrical system, leading to the tripping of circuit breakers. It is important to check if the breakers are still operational. If appliances, electronics, or A/C units are no longer functioning correctly, it could be a result of either circuit breaker damage or tripped breakers.

Can lightning strike inside a house?

Lightning can strike inside a house, and even though your home is generally considered a safe shelter during a lightning storm, there is still a potential risk. Approximately one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors. To minimize the risk of being struck by lightning while indoors, it is advisable to follow certain safety precautions. One important measure is to avoid contact with water.

Where does lightning strike the most?

The place on Earth that receives the most lightning strikes is Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, where massive thunderstorms occur on 140-160 nights per year. During these storms, there is an average of 28 lightning strikes per minute, and they can last up to 10 hours at a time.

What attracts lightning to a house?

Lightning is attracted to a house based on factors such as height, shape, and isolation, rather than the presence of metal. The more tall, pointed, and isolated a structure is, the more likely it is to attract lightning strikes.

Why are thunderstorms getting stronger?

Thunderstorms are becoming stronger due to mounting evidence indicating that warmer oceans are providing more energy to fuel these tropical storms. Many scientists assert that the connection to climate change is evident.

Why does power go out after a storm?

The power goes out after a storm due to various factors. These include wind that causes wires to come into contact with objects or each other, resulting in a short circuit. Additionally, trees or other objects may be blown into power lines, causing similar disruptions. Moreover, flooding of electrical equipment due to water can also lead to power outages. Furthermore, lightning strikes can contribute to the disruptions.

What should I unplug during power outage?

You should unplug appliances such as televisions, computer equipment, advanced technology washers and dryers, game consoles, fans, lights, etc., especially if they were in use when the power went out during a power outage.

Should I turn off breakers during power outage?

You should turn off breakers during a power outage to prevent damage caused by spikes or flickering when power is restored. It is recommended to flip the breakers for your HVAC system and other major appliances to the OFF position.

Can an electrical storm cause a power surge?

An electrical storm can cause a power surge. Power surges are often experienced during thunderstorms and other severe weather conditions, typically as a result of lightning strikes or when utility companies reset circuits following outages. It is important to be aware of the risks associated with storm-related power surges.

How do you keep power during a hurricane?

To keep power during a hurricane, one can maintain a stock of batteries for flashlights and lanterns or invest in a standby generator capable of powering a business. It is also important to consider battery backup systems for essential devices such as sump pumps and medical equipment.

Why shouldn’t you use electronics during a hurricane?

You should not use electronics during a hurricane because hurricanes can potentially damage your plugged-in electrical appliances and devices. To safeguard both your sensitive electronics and yourself from power fluctuations during the storm and power surges that may happen when service is restored, it is advisable to unplug laptops and other sensitive electronics.

Why does lightning cause the power to go out?

Lightning causes the power to go out because when a lightning strike occurs, it can introduce an excessive amount of voltage into the power system. This sudden surge of electricity can surpass the system’s designed voltage capacity, leading to equipment responding rapidly to prevent further harm or malfunctioning, ultimately resulting in a power outage.

Why does electricity flicker during storms?

Electricity flickers during storms because rain and ice accumulation on power lines can cause them to swing and slap together, resulting in momentary outages or blinking lights. This phenomenon, known as galloping, occurs when the wind causes the power lines to move in a way that interrupts the flow of electricity.

Why doesn’t lightning go straight down?

Lightning does not go straight down because it seeks the path of least resistance while descending towards the ground. The presence of fluctuations in temperature, humidity, pollutants, dust particles, and other factors in the air causes variations in resistance, preventing a direct trajectory.

Does lightning have anything to do with electricity?

Lightning is related to electricity. The formation of this phenomenon occurs when cold air and warm air interact.

What is the popping sound during a thunderstorm?

The popping sound during a thunderstorm is caused by the loudest part of the lightning, which is the clap or crack originating from the main channel. If the lightning’s path is mostly straight, there will be a single boom. However, if the lightning has multiple zig-zags, each section will produce a distinct clap.

What is it called when lightning doesn’t stop?

When lightning doesn’t stop, it is referred to as continuous lightning. Continuous lightning is a greater fire concern due to the heat it generates, and it is sometimes called hot lightning. On the other hand, lightning that consists only of return strokes is known as cold lightning.

Is lightning a powerful burst of electricity?

Lightning is indeed a powerful surge of electricity that occurs rapidly in the midst of a thunderstorm. It can manifest within clouds, between clouds, and from clouds to the earth’s surface. Approximately 25% of lightning discharges from the clouds to the ground. The root cause of lightning stems from an imbalance in the electrical charge within the atmosphere.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.