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Snap, crackle, pop: Salt spray blamed for odd sounds from B.C. power lines

Residents in Victoria region have been taking to social media to report odd sounds on powerlines
BC Hydro said there is no cause for concern after Greater Victoria residents took to social media to report crackling and popping sounds coming from power lines in recent weeks. (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

Some B.C. residents may have been hearing some odd noises coming from nearby powerlines lately, but BC Hydro is assuring them it is nothing to worry about.

People in the Victoria region have taken to social media in recent weeks reporting crackling noises, pops, and even sparks along power lines, seemingly getting more noticeable at night when more people are using electricity.

According to BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk, the phenomenon is quite rare for the region, but their colleagues across the country at Newfoundland Power are familiar with it and passed on some information.

“Essentially, it’s a build up of salt on the lines,” said Olynyk. “Usually when we get a build up of salt spray on the lines, it will get washed off by the heavy rains that normally come with wind storms here, but unfortunately we have not had a lot of rain with the recent high winds.”

According to a document produced by Newfoundland Power and forwarded to Black Press Media by BC Hydro, the build up of salt on powerline insulators eventually reaches a point where it allows tiny amounts of electricity to flow over the surface of the insulators, resulting in a faint buzzing sound and even occasional sparks most visible at night.

Occasionally, the document said salt build up can reach a point where short circuits can develop, resulting in loud pops and electrical arcing lasting a split second. Newfoundland Power said these shorts can result in localized power outages lasting from two to 15 seconds, but said in the document there is no need to report such interruptions.

The document notes winds can bring salt spray surprisingly far from the coast, so the phenomenon can be experienced away from the water as well as nearby.

Olynyk said he is not aware of BC Hydro receiving any reports of incidents related to the noises, and crews are not expected to be deployed to address it. Instead, he said the best course of action at the moment is to simply wait for Mother Nature to bring some rain and clean the salt spray off the lines naturally.

READ MORE: ‘Substantial damage’ more likely this storm season due to drought-weakened trees: BC Hydro


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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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