November 17, 2022

Let it snow? Winter weather and power outages

When it comes to weather-related power outages, most people think of summer thunderstorms triggered by hot temperatures. But disruptions can also occur when it’s frosty outside – remember the ice storm of 2013? Since that major outage, lessons were learned and upgrades made to shore up electrical infrastructure against extreme weather.

Winter weather threats

The build up of ice and heavy snow on power lines is a major cause of power outages during the winter months. The sheer weight can cause lines to sag and break. In Quebec during the 2013 storm, the ice accumulation was so heavy it caused entire electrical towers to topple. Ice can also cause tree branches to snap and fall across the lines.

The fierce winds associated with winter storms can wreak havoc on power lines. High winds can also break tree branches, and if they fall on the lines, an outage may occur.

Image for winter weather and power outages

Elexicon Energy uses approved contractors to trim trees and maintain adequate clearance around overhead power lines to reduce the risk of this happening.

Much of the new electrical infrastructure today is built underground which keeps it more insulated from the inclement weather. However, overhead structures feed this equipment and it is possible for fallen lines to affect the downstream power supply and lead to outages.

The ground freezing at the beginning of winter and thawing in the spring can also affect underground equipment. In both cases the earth moves, which puts physical stress on the cables – if severe enough, the cables can break causing faults.

During a winter power outage, one of the biggest threats is frozen water pipes. If the pipes burst, the resulting flood can cause extensive damage.

Restoring power

In the winter months, restoring power after an outage is a challenge. In the case of an emergency, during a snowstorm for example, road conditions are often poor, so just getting to the repair site is difficult.

Large accumulations of snow hamper crews in gaining access to equipment that needs fixing. This is especially true for repairs on buried cables. Not only do crews have to remove the ice and snow; they must also dig into frozen ground which is demanding work and can lead to delays.

In all situations, safety is the top priority. Workers first secure the zone to make it safe for customers and crew members. They will isolate the section of the line needing repair, switching the electricity load to another circuit while completing the work. The goal is always to maintain power for the greatest number of customers, while completing full electricity restoration as quickly as possible.

The snowy winter weather has arrived early this year! Be sure to check out “How to Prepare for a Power Outage” for tips on what to do to before, during, and after an outage to keep you and your family safe.