From a big old tree, a heavy branch suddenly fell, taking the power lines with it. What caused the failure? None of the usual culprits were present: not wind, nor ice, nor lightning. But temperatures had risen swiftly over a two-day period, from a bitter cold 4ºF/-13ºC to an almost balmy 50ºF/10ºC. Perhaps internal stresses resulting from this rapid swing led the old tree finally to give way.
The limb fell with a great blue flash, according to a neighbor who saw it happen. Almost certainly, the flash was caused by the high voltage line touching ground. It was only by great good luck that nobody was hurt. Make no mistake: this had all the elements of high drama.
The episode occurred on the busiest street in town, a major thoroughfare, and just after dark, during a steady rain. For more than an hour, the street remained closed, until a tree crew could come and clear away the debris. Then the waiting utility workers, with great composure considering the risk, began making their repairs. Shortly thereafter, the street was reopened to its usual heavy traffic.