When strong winds blow over the ocean, the wind can pick up salt from the sea – this is called salt contaminated moisture or salt spray.
As it is blown around by the wind, salt will deposit on every surface it encounters such as trees, vehicles, buildings, and most critical for electrical utilities, power line insulators. When enough salt builds up the insulating capability of power line insulators can become compromised. When this happens they start to break down causing very small amounts of electricity to flow over the surface of the insulator. This can be heard as a faint buzzing sound, and when it’s dark out, you may even see intermittent sparks that appear to jump along the surface of the insulator. These sparks of electricity are nothing to fear or be concerned about. This sparking may last for hours or even days, depending on the weather. They will disappear when the sparking either burns away the salt deposits or rain/snow washes it away.
Occasionally, salt contamination on insulators can become severe enough to cause short circuits to develop. These are heard as very loud bursts of noise and seen as electrical arcing flashes – but for very short periods of time – a split second. These short circuits may cause momentary power outages (between 2 to 15 seconds). There is no need to report these power interruptions.
Sometimes salt spray contamination can result in longer outages (a period of hours or even days) until crews can replace the affected equipment or weather conditions improve. If your power is out for longer than a few minutes, please report using our outage line: 1-800-474-5711 or our online outage form: https://www.newfoundlandpower.com/Outages/Report-a-Power-Outage.
Depending on wind speeds this salty air can be carried over long distances. This means you don’t have to live next to the ocean for you to see/experience the effects the salt can have on the electricity system.
Always ensure you are prepared for an outage. Our weather can be unpredictable, so make sure to sign up for our Outage Alert service and always have an emergency kit on hand. For more information visit https://www.newfoundlandpower.com/Outages/About-Outages/Prepare-for-an-Outage.