Arrowhead Electric Cooperative is headquartered in Lusten. Submitted image
Submitted photo

Arrowhead explains strange ‘brownout’ over Labor Day weekend

A number of Cook County residents watched in confusion as their lightbulbs went dim and various appliances struggled to function Sunday night during Labor Day weekend.

In a rarity for Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, a phenomenon known as a ‘brownout’ impacted many residents on the east end of Cook County Sunday evening (Sept. 5).

During a brownout, electricity continues to flow across the grid and into people’s homes, but at lower than usual voltage levels, according to Dan Johnson, the operations manager at Arrowhead. Rather than a traditional blackout where the power is simply lost, a brownout is something that caught many Cook County residents off guard and unsure of what to do. If a dimming of lights were to occur again locally, Johnson said people should be prepared to turn off power to things such as well pumps and appliances, and to unplug some electronics, particularly computers and other expensive equipment.

A brownout is something some power suppliers will do intentionally on occasions when electricity demand surpasses a utility company’s capacity. In the situation that unfolded in Cook County Sept. 5, Johnson said a raven at the Colvill substation was the culprit. The bird apparently got into some of the electrical equipment at the substation, taking a high voltage blast of electricity. The bird perished in the incident and some of the equipment at the substation was damaged, Johnson said.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Johnson about the local brownout for Arrowhead customers and what to do if a similar situation happens again. Audio below.