NUFORC Sighting 12901

Occurred: 2000-05-12 20:50 Local
Reported: 2000-05-17 00:00 Pacific
Duration: one minute
No of observers: 1

Location: Portland, OR, USA

Shape: Unknown



Our gratitude to John Kirby, State Section Director for MUFON in the Portland area, for conducting the interview and effectively closing the case.

Our interest was first piqued by the witness, who reported that 1) headlights on nearby vehicles may have failed for a few seconds, and 2) a nearby maroon colored van seemed to have disappeared from her sight during the flash. These preliminary impressions on the part of the witness apparently did not bear out under investigation.

John Kirby and Skip Schultz, State Director, can be reached over the internet, or through NUFORC.))

[This is being written by MUFON investigator, John Kirby, section director, Multnomah County, Oregon] Witness was stopped at a traffic light at the corner of 72nd and Woodstock in Portland. While waiting for the light to change, there was a brilliant flash "for just a few milliseconds" in front of her vehicle and up about 10 feet in the air (very approximate height). When the flash occurred, power went out in the area -- the traffic light went off, street lights went off, and lights in a tavern at the intersection went off. Her car continued to operate and so did a car across the intersection (that car turned left just after the incident). The witness was "temporarily blinded" by the brightness of the flash and said that things looked dark all around (presumably / possibly) by her eyes' reaction to the light. The power came back on in just 1-2 seconds both at the traffic light and at the nearby structures. Street lamps did not come back on. None of the other drivers (there were at least two other cars nearby) seemed to react unusually (they continued to drive on when the light changed). Nobody got out of their car to look, etc. Investigator's opinion: This is consistent with an electrical arc (short circuit, fault) on a power line near / above the intersection. When this occurred, presumably a circuit breaker opened (cut off the power) to the area. Usually circuit breakers used in power systems are configured to reset after a few seconds, and if the short circuit is cleared, the power will come back on and stay on. I have been told by members of the power company that small animals or birds sometime straddle power lines causing a temporary short circuit. The animals are unfortunately killed or seriously injured in the process, and are knocked free of the wires by the explosion. Therefore the short circuit is "cleared" immediately and the power is restored in a few seconds. This could also be caused by debris falling on wires and temporarily shorting the line. I did not go out to look at the wires to see if there is an obvious place where short circuits might occur, but I may do that in the coming few days. Note that the reason why the street lights did not come back on immediately is likely due to the fact that lights commonly used by cities, such as mercury vapor lamps, if the power is cut off for even just a moment, will take a few minutes to restart. When this explanation was proposed to the witness, she said that it made sense to her.

Posted 2000-06-06

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