How ice storms impact the power grid

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It only takes a little bit of ice to mess up roads, but it can also have quite an impact on the power grid, too.

Ice can quickly increase the weight of tree branches by as much as 30 times. Add wind on top of that and you have a recipe for significant powerline damage as these heavy, damaged branches fall down.

Strong winds can also create galloping power lines.  The ice that forms on these lines takes on a teardrop shape. With increasing winds, this shape can actually act like a wing that is attached to the line itself, causing them to sway in the wind. If they are close enough, they could actually collide and cause a power outage as they conduct each other’s current. These strong winds can also weaken the support structures themselves and cause lines to come crashing to the ground.

Ice can also be an issue for larger transmission lines creating a drop as large as 12 feet in spots depending on the amount of ice and temperature.

If you happen to lose power, remember to keep things like your refrigerator and freezer closed to prevent food from spoiling. You can also gather any leftover ice/snow from outside and put it into plastic bags, placing them in the freezer to help keep the temperature in check.

Travel should be avoided this evening until road crews have had enough time to thoroughly treat all surfaces. Many residential roads and sidewalks will remain slick and ice covered through Wednesday morning. Treat these areas especially with extra caution.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

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