When winter winds howl, power lines can gallop

Winter can bring thoughts of gently falling snow or sparkling ice, but it can also bring unpredictable weather with high winds, whiteouts and ice storms. Severe weather with strong winds can cause damage to trees, buildings and electrical equipment. While power lines can sway in high winds, add freezing rain or icy conditions and the result can be galloping power lines.

Galloping is the bouncing or bucking movement of overhead lines and can cause several problems, from temporary power interruptions to equipment damage, the collapse of power poles and downed lines.

Galloping lines often result from ice buildup on one side of the power line due to strong winds. The buildup of ice creates an airfoil, which changes the flow of air around the line, causing bouncing wires, or galloping power lines.

There isn’t much utility workers can do until the wind dies down. That’s why many power lines have objects, like twisted wire or round or angular pieces of metal, attached to the line. These help reduce galloping of lines and prevent potential danger.

If you see galloping power lines:

  • Keep your distance – ice can break off or power lines break loose.
  • Contact your cooperative to make them aware of the potential damage as soon as possible.

If you see a downed line:

  • Stay far away and warn others to stay away.
  • Remember, a downed line can remain energized even if it is not sparking or arcing.
  • Always report the location of a downed power line and damaged electrical equipment.

Prepare an emergency kit

Be sure to have a storm preparedness kit ready before a storm strikes to help get you and your family through a power outage. Safe Electricity recommends you include the following items in your kit:

  • Water – stock up on bottled water for consumption.
  • Food – have enough non-perishable food items to last at least three to seven days.
  • Utensils – include a non-electric can opener, cooking tools, paper plates and plastic utensils.
  • Blankets, pillows and warm clothing items.
  • First aid kit, medicine and prescription drugs.
  • Flashlight and batteries – be sure to include extra batteries.
  • Radio and clock – use battery-operated radios and clocks; also consider purchasing a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio.
  • Telephone – keep cell phone chargers (wall, car and/or solar) on hand and, if you have a landline, a traditional (not cordless) telephone set.
  • Supplies for alternate heating methods such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Visit SafeElectricity.org to learn more about storm and outage safety.

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