You should have seen the mess on our street when an insulator blew off the utility pole in front of our house. Seems some construction workers about a 1/4 mile away were doing something, maybe it was an illegal hookup - we dont quite know, but what's the deal, they work for the county. I woke up (hey this was a few days after September 11) to the sound of an explosion followed by what at first could just as well have been automatic weapons fire. Right.
The other things that I noticed were a whole bunch of bright flashes outside my window, about as bright in my room as the noon day sun with the curtains open, except that the curtains were closed; and I heard conspicuous beeping from the UPS that feeds my comuter hardware. OK, a power failure. Maybe a bomb? Or what? I remembered that my cousin had told me that we had been having mysterious brownouts all week and that our friendly neighborhood, bankrupt utility had been out several times trying to figure it out. So I didnt totally freak out - and I figured it would be safe to look outside.
The fire was spreading quickly through the shrubs, and was threatening nearby trees that would have easily led to the total combustion of several houses. I screamed "FIRE" loud enough to wake everyone in the house, grabbed my CORDLESS phone and called 911. I managed to tell them something or another before the line went dead, grabbed a garden hose (be VERY careful doing this, touch only the rubber part of the hose, dont get yourself wet and watch where you stand, at your own risk! You have been warned) and started soaking the trees and shrubs where the fire was threatening to spread - NOT so much where the sparks were jumping from the dancing wires on the ground and in the shrubs.
Well as it turned out, one of the power lines (obviously good for powering a number of houses and probably good for at least a thousand amps) had dropped onto the ground wires on the same pole, vaporizing them in the process, and so also taking out the cable TV distrubution point for our street. This meant that neither our house, nor any of the neighbors had a utility ground anymore - even though we were being feed a lot of voltage though the cable and phone lines. Actually I suppose maybe we were getting high voltage through the ground at one point, who knows? The fire department showed up, eventually.
Fortunately the cable TV line happens to have a ground to the utility ground where it enters the house, about two feet from the electric meter, and of course they're both bonded to a ground stake that goes several feet into the ground. Gee, who would have thought of that? The cable splitters and wiring at the service entrance exploded, and my cousins DVD player didnt work after that. Also our outdoor BigUglyDish wouldnt change polarities. The BigUglyDish apparently fried the ground wire to the polarotor, but suffered no other damage. Some of our neighbors as I understand werent as lucky.
Our friendly cable company had to replace the drop to the house, and a bunch of stuff on the poles, and we had the first clear picture on all channels in twenty years. Then we said to hell with cable, and put a DirecTV receiver in the living room+every bedroom.
. Put in HDTV OTA antennas around Christmas ... and yes, EVERYTHING has a proper ground - meaning actually grounded to the proper grounds - in the ground. Without it, well this situation might have been very easily lethal for the unlucky soul pouring coffee or some such thing at the wrong moment ... even with grounded outlets, or ground fault interrupters in bathroom outlets, because it might not do you much good if your "gounded appliance" is at 120 volts, or 480, or 1320 or some such thing while you are turning the faucet, or whatever. Think about it.