Have you ever seen geometric-shaped devices, spacers, or what looks like curled wire on a power line? Those are there to help prevent galloping of the lines, which usually happens during extreme and fluctuating cold-weather conditions. (You may have also noticed large, brightly colored marker balls placed on lines, but those are there to make the lines visible to approaching aircraft near airports.)
The galloping motion can begin after high winds and freezing rain create icicles and other ice formations on lines, sometimes on just one side of the line. Then as the high winds continue, they catch the ice formations on the power lines, creating a galloping, whipping or jumping motion.
Why do lights flicker?
If the galloping motion gets going, lines that pick up speed can make contact with grounded equipment, such as the steel of a transmission tower, stabilizing wires (called “guy” wires), or another conductor. When this happens, a short circuit occurs, causing the lights to flicker.
Once galloping starts, there isn’t much your utility can do until the winds subside. In addition to flickering light, power outages are possible due to excessive ice accumulation.
Windstorms can cause havoc year-round
Aside from wintry storms that can cause freezing rain and ice, storms occurring any time of year can serve up damaging winds. Safe Electricity encourages you to keep the following safety tips in mind during or after a windstorm:
· When you see power lines on the ground, stay away, warn others to stay away, and call 9-1-1. Lines do not have to be arcing or sparking to be live.
· Stay away from all lines. Any utility wire, including telephone or cable lines that are sagging or down, could be in contact with an energized power line, making them dangerous.
· If you are in a car that has come in contact with a downed power line, stay in your vehicle and call for help. Wait until the utility crew has arrived and de-energized the line. Warn others not to approach the car. Only exit the car in the case of fire; and, in doing so, be sure to jump out and away from the car with both feet together. Then hop away while continuing to keep both feet together to avoid becoming a conductor of electricity.
· Remember that tree limbs or debris may hide an electrical hazard. Downed power lines can energize objects around it, such as chain-link fences, metal culverts (a below-surface pipe that allows water to move) and metal drain covers.
· Never drive over a downed line. It could cause poles or other equipment to come crashing down.
Get more electrical safety information at SafeElectricity.org.