I watch news video and notice they use "rolling" to describe a blackout at current snow disaster. I googled, it has many meanings. I am not sure which one fits. Common usage of rolling is rotating, but it doesn't fit. Does it mean repeated? Or endless in a metaphoric way?

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    The way I imagine it is like the motion of a rolling wave which moves across a city or region. Some areas that are in/on/under the wave are going to lose power, and as the wave moves on, the power will come back while others in the path of the wave will lose power.
    – Rayner
    Feb 19 '21 at 8:15
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    What @Rayner said. Note that one of the definitions of roller is A long swelling wave that appears to roll steadily towards the shore. The implications of rolling blackouts is that they're cyclical and they move from place to place - so any given location will sometimes be experiencing blackouts, but there will be other times when they do have power. That's to say, the "lack of power" will be shared equally between all areas on a "time-slicing" basis. Feb 19 '21 at 15:56
  • The definition of rolling that applies is : 2. progressing or spreading by stages or by occurrences in different places in succession, with continued or increasing effectiveness: three weeks of rolling strikes disrupted schools.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 19 '21 at 20:50

A rolling blackout is one that starts in one area, and then over time it moves to a different (nearby) area, and then continues moving over time.

The most common reason for a blackout to be “rolling” is that it was intentional - they simply ran out of electricity and had to intentionally cut off the power. They distribute the shortage across different areas so that no one area suffers more than others.

However, blackouts caused by storms could also be described as rolling, partly because storms themselves travel from area to area, and partly because there are not enough repair crews available, which means that some areas get fixed while others have to wait.


If you put up a drone to film the area you would see the blacked-out area apparently rolling across the area. I imagine it in fact jumps from one area to the next rather than rolling smoothly but the usual term is rolling.

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