Sometimes, absolutely nothing has to happen for a utility pole to fall, which is what happened in this New Jersey town. And it's scary to think that it could happen for no apparent reason, but it does.

To avoid issues for those who had to respond on-site, I won't mention which power company was responsible for this particular power grid, nor will I mention the town where this particular incident occurred.

I also want to note that in no way are the crews on the ground being blamed for this. They were the ones trying to figure out how to get things back to normal and had to work within the limitations they were faced with.

They were in no way responsible for what homeowners were told on the phone or online, and they should be credited for coming up with a solution on-site. So to all of you who do the dangerous job of repairing our power grid, thank you.

And even though this incident happened a while back, the way it unfolded is important to take note of, especially with winter right around the corner.

Now, with that said, this particular incident being referenced happened during one of New Jersey's extreme heatwaves in 2022. It was in the evening hours when the power suddenly went out for these unfortunate residents.

Old Utility Pole
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

At first, those in the area thought it was just a brownout due to the heat. But it didn't take long to see what actually happened.

One of the power lines up the street was lying across the road, with another one pulled about halfway down as a result. That, of course, knocked out power throughout the area.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt as a result. Had someone been hurt as a result, this situation would've been much more serious than it already was.

A fallen utility pole in South Jersey
Example of a fallen utility pole in South Jersey (Atlantic City Electric)

This happened in a residential neighborhood on a quiet side street, making it unlikely that a speeding car would've been the cause. Still, sometimes people do feel the need to open up the throttle in neighborhoods.

Or, since it was the evening, maybe someone had a few too many to drink and drove into the pole. All seem plausible, except that nobody who lived up or down the street heard anything occur that would result in such an impact.

In fact, there was no sign of any car damage at all by the pole, nor was there any other damage that would indicate a car caused this to happen. At the moment, nobody quite knew what happened.

But since power was out for everyone on that street and the surrounding area as a result, the utility company dispatched a team to check it out.


To make matters worse, it was insanely hot that evening, with temperatures staying around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. Needless to say, it was not the kind of weather anyone should have to sleep in.

So the estimates from the power company started to roll in. At first, the estimated restoration time was around 10 p,m. that night. A few hours of miserable heat, but it could be worse. Well, unfortunately, it did get worse.

After the first restoration time comes and goes, it gets pushed back again. And again. And again. In fact, this happened throughout the night with a new restoration time of 6 a.m.

But what happened that morning? Didn't appear a whole lot.

ARCHIVE 2018 (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ARCHIVE 2018 (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Aside from a couple of emergency vehicles that were there with lights flashing and cones down, the pole was still across the road with all the power lines attached to it. Needless to say, the restoration times were clearly way off.

The same thing continued to happen as the day went on. Later restoration times kept getting posted with the already intense heat getting worse early on as the day progressed.

Finally, as the time approached noon, new telephone poles arrived to replace the ones that fell. It would still be a few hours from that point before wires were moved and power got restored.

For as miserable as this was, the utility company didn't help rectify the situation. In fact, they made it worse and gave false hope at a time New Jersey was dealing with a major heat wave.

Construction cone by utility pole
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

Right off the bat, if the utility company knew it would take such a long time to get new poles in place, they should've said that upfront.

The state was dealing with dangerous heat at the time and went around 18 hours with no electricity. That means no air conditioning for those without generators and possible health emergencies.

Another note to our utility companies? Don't lie as to what the reason was for the poles to fall in the first place.

It's one thing if it's unknown, but it's another when you're disputing the very people who live where this happened and know firsthand it wasn't a vehicle accident.

Utility pole with construction cone
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

There did happen to be one neighbor who was walking their dog and witnessed the poles come down. They stated that it just came down and pulled the other pole with it. No wind, no soggy ground, no rain, nothing like that. It just fell. Period.

Since there seemed to be no obvious cause, residents were curious as to why these poles fell so easily in the first place. If it wasn't an accident, and there was no heavy wind or rain at the time, what happened?

It turns out, the answer might've been revealed based on the condition of other poles around that vicinity. Some of the poles appeared to have rotted along the base, which could explain a sudden fall.

Utility pole rot
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

It's probably a daunting task to keep up with knowing which poles are reaching the danger point of becoming at risk of falling, but a rotting pole is a major problem that needs to be addressed and should be reported.

What if someone was walking by or driving in that area at the time and got caught in live wires? Thankfully, that didn't happen with this incident, but that person walking his dog got fairly close to that becoming a reality.

Unfortunately, the way this utility company responded to the situation was completely unacceptable.

Power Outage in Ocean City
(HughE_Dillon via Twitter @PhillyChitChat)

First, don't go trying to sell that it was a car accident when the neighbors clearly knew it wasn't.

Second, don't say the power would be back in a few hours only to go well through the night and a good portion of the next day before actually getting power restored. Being New Jersey was dealing with deadly heat, it was inexcusable to give the citizens of the affected area false hope that power would be back soon.

Yes, the hopes are always for a quick turnaround, but that's not always a possibility. Someone could've been hospitalized due to the extreme temperatures and humidity.

A situation that could possibly be avoided by simply telling your customers that restoration was unknown and would take much longer than expected to repair.

California Power Grid Strained By Heat Wave
Hot weather puts a huge strain on power grids, as demand for air conditioners, fans, and refrigeration skyrockets. (Getty Images)

A message for utility companies as we go forward

That particular incident from 2022 might be in the rearview mirror now, but a similar event could play out in the near future. Summertime, after all, isn't the only season with extreme weather.

The summer of 2023 was fortunately much more tame, but also much wetter. Could those wet conditions also contribute to pole rot?

There are a lot of factors at play that make it difficult to know precisely when a pole might end up coming down. And power companies shouldn't be blamed too harshly for when it randomly does happen as in the above example.

However, they should be held accountable when their responses to customers are flat-out inaccurate making the situation seem better than it is. So please take note of this incident from the summer of 2022 and do the right thing, especially with the winter months ahead.

Leonid Ikan
Leonid Ikan

Don't make up a reason as to why it happened, and don't give false hope of restoration. It's the least you could do for us while crews work on a solution to repair the damage.

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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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