The Hidden Dangers Of Downed Power Lines

Tuesday, December 1st 2015, 9:26 pm
By: Grant Hermes

In the days following the first blast of winter weather in Oklahoma, videos and images have surfaced online showing power lines sparking and arcing as they fall under the weight of layers of built-up ice.

Some videos have shown a more hidden danger, like what happens when those lines fall on average yard fences.

Tuesday morning, the City of Edmond posted a video onto its Facebook page showing a line worker opening and closing the gate of a metal fence. Sparks jumped from the latch. The fence had been electrified by a downed power line that had come into contact with the chain link.

“They were wearing special gloves where they could touch something,” Edmond spokesman Casey Moore said. “Clearly, if someone that was not wearing special gloves [touched the fence] they would get a shock they wouldn't be happy with.”

Not only would it not be pleasant, it could be deadly.

Power lines routinely carry up to 1,000 volts when running through residential and urban areas and up to 69,000 volts through more rural areas.

Doctors say that kind of electrical power is capable of causing burns, vision and hearing loss and heart damage.

High voltage electric currents can also throw people from the line or fence causing serious internal damage. Those reasons, among others, are why Moore said it was best to stay clear from lines and electrified objects and wait for crews to arrive.

“More than anything they've got the equipment, but they've also got the training. So they're trained to know how to do this work and handle these situations,” he said.

Moore added it was best not to try to clear brush or fallen tree limbs from areas near downed lines.

“Do not touch these things. Do not mess with these things. Please be patient until people can get on scene and do the correct work,” he said.

Edmond had nearly 7,000 customers without power Saturday and Sunday. Moore said they were able to reduce that number to 160 by Tuesday afternoon.